Monday, March 10, 2003

Bill would establish no-call list in Ohio

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - It soon may be easier for Ohioans irritated by phone solicitations to turn off the telemarketers.

Sen. Robert Spada, a Republican from North Royalton, has introduced legislation that would establish a do-not-call list for Ohio. If the bill passes, the state will join 27 others with similar measures in place or pending.

"I believe that consumers have a right to privacy in their own homes and should be able to prevent unsolicited telephone calls," he said.

"This bill will give consumers a choice in limiting the telephone calls they receive without having to go to the expense of leasing or purchasing special equipment."

Ohioans wishing to be placed on such a list would notify the state attorney general's office that they don't want to receive unsolicited calls on their home phones, cellular phones and fax machines.

The office and Ohio Consumers' Counsel Robert Tongren have said they support the proposal.

It would complement the national do-not-call registry established recently by the Federal Trade Commission. Consumers can begin adding their names to that list beginning July 1, commission spokeswoman Cathy MacFarlane said.

By September, telemarketers must buy the registry, then purge consumers' telephone numbers from calling lists.

The measures would restrict telemarketers' use of automatic-dialing systems that randomly call multiple numbers simultaneously. This often results in abandoned calls when a person answers the phone and a telemarketer is not available to respond.

To avoid this, telemarketers would be required to play a recorded message identifying themselves and providing a toll-free number consumers can call to be placed on the do-not-call list.

Additionally, the federal rule prohibits telemarketers from blocking their telephone numbers from Caller ID systems.

The lists won't end all unsolicited calls. Political and charitable solicitors are exempt, as are survey-takers. Companies with which consumers have a previous business relationship also may continue to call.

The federal rule doesn't cover calls made to Ohioans from within Ohio, but the state proposal does.

Also out of federal jurisdiction are direct sales pitches from state-regulated industries such as banks and insurance companies and local telephone companies. Federal rules apply when those companies hire outside telemarketers to peddle their goods and services.

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