State expands ‘Do-Not-Call’ registry

The “Do-Not-Call” registry could become even more effective in New York state if Gov. Andrew Cuomo a
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The “Do-Not-Call” registry could become even more effective in New York state if Gov. Andrew Cuomo approves legislation waiting for his signature.

In June, the state Legislature unanimously passed a bill, introduced at the request of Cuomo, that will greatly expand the list of telemarketers that can be penalized for calling people who have signed up for the registry. The state penalties currently only apply to telemarketers who are located in New York, so out-of-state telemarketers are free to violate the registry without fear of criminal or civil reprisal.

The penalties range from class B misdemeanors to class A misdemeanors and include fines ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 per violation.

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The national “Do-Not-Call” registry can be accessed at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222. Home telephones and cellular phones can be registered.

Currently there are about 22 telemarketers located in the state and more than 1,100 in surrounding states, according to the bill’s memorandum in support.

People in New York have listed more than 13 million phone numbers with the registry, but more than 5,000 complaints have been filed with the state Department of State and the Federal Trade Commission received 61,705 complaints from New Yorkers in the first three months of 2012.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, a Democrat from New York City and an ardent supporter of the legislation, characterized the existing state and federal protections as a success, but said a deluge of unwanted calls are still getting through.

“This new measure, which I was proud to support, will help to crack down on these annoying practices,” he said in a news release. “This legislation closes [the state registration] loophole and should help reduce the number of unwanted calls some New Yorkers have been receiving.”

Additionally, the legislation prohibits telemarketers from sending out prerecorded messages except when the recipient has explicitly consented to receive the call.

It also requires telemarketers sending out prerecorded messages to allow the customer to submit a do-not-call request during the call and if the telemarketer reaches a voicemail they have to leave information about how to be added to their do-not-call list.

New York Public Interest Research Group legislative counsel Russ Haven said the protections against prerecorded messages, known commonly as “robocalls,” are good for consumers.

“The law needs to keep current with the latest practices of telemarketer calls and robocalls are the latest intrusions,” Haven said.

He added that it’s important with any regulation that compliance with the law has to cost less for a business than non-compliance. The possibility of fines could help motivate out-of-state telemarketers for the first time.

Some exceptions to this law, which would go into effect 90 days after it is signed, do exist, with exemptions carved out for charitable groups, political organizations and companies that have an existing relationship with the call recipient. The registry also only applies to telemarketers that register with the state or federal government.

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