July 01, 2002
Texas No Call kicks in

Today is the day that the Texas No Call law kicks in, meaning that people who have signed up to be on the no-call list for telemarketers should start to see a decline in annoying telemarketer calls.

Naturally, the evil telemarketing industry is trotting out its usual sob stories:

"I think folks at the state and federal levels had in their mind that this was kind of a small business that kind of annoyed people, so it's OK to revile it," said Louis Mastria, spokesman for the New York-based DMA. "But those things don't match up with the economic reality."

An estimated 185 million Americans purchase goods or services by phone each year, including many older residents who don't feel comfortable doing business over the Internet, according to industry records.

For every 19 people who yell at or hang up on telemarketers, there's at least one who's receptive to the sales pitch, according to industry statistics.

"I don't think people mind being called at home. Most consumers are bothered by the volume of calls," said Kevin Brosnahan, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based American Teleservices Association.

I'm gonna assume that "185 million" refers to the number of annual transactions and not actual number of Americans who buy things from telemarketers, as there are roughly 200 million adults in the US, and I have a hard time believing that 90% of them bought goods over the phone last year. It sure doesn't square with the statement that 19 out of 20 people hang up on telemarketers. And for the record, Kevin, I do mind being called at home.

It's too soon to tell whether the no-call laws will prompt companies to cut back on telemarketing, industry officials say.

But the additional costs -- registering with the state, buying no-call lists several times a year, hiring people to input the lists and paying hefty fines for violations -- likely will be passed on to consumers.

"It will force legitimate telemarketers to pay for the sins of the 20 percent of the industry that give us all a black eye," Mastria said.

Oh, cry me a freakin' river. Are you saying that the cost of condo timeshares and satellite TV installations and low-rate credit cards are going to go up because the state of Texas is generously filtering out the people who would have slammed the phone down on you? Look at it this way: With all the telemarketer-haters out of the way, your hit rate per call will go up. Don't you think that will make your costs go down? Amazing.

Meanwhile, a four-Claude rating goes to this headline: "Some telemarketing officials think no-call list unneccesary".

Many telemarketing industry officials say the Texas no-call list, effective today -- and more than two dozen other states' similar lists of residents who don't want telemarketing calls -- is unnecessary. They say consumers already are protected under federal law, which:

  • Prohibits telemarketing calls before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m., based on the resident's time zone.

  • Prohibits companies from using automated dialers and leaving prerecorded messages for commercial purposes on a resident's answering machine.

  • Requires firms to keep a no-call list of residents who specifically have asked that company not to call them anymore.

  • Requires every telemarketer to state his or her name, which can be an alias as long as the company can identify the employee if a customer files a complaint.

  • Requires telemarketers to state their company, that they are calling to sell a good or service, and the seller's address or phone number if a customer wants to cancel the order or lodge a complaint.

Man, I get at least a dozen auto-dialer prerecorded messages on my answering machine per week. If there are existing laws which are supposed to prevent that, they ain't working.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 01, 2002 to The great state of Texas