- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2000

It's a familiar routine: Just as you sit down for dinner, the telephone rings and a telemarketer is on the line trying to sell you siding, a vacation time share or a magazine.
It has happened so many times to Rep. Matt Salmon, Arizona Republican, that he wants to declare a national dinner hour and prohibit telemarketers from calling at least between 5 and 7 p.m. so families can enjoy dinner without interruption.
"The American people are tired of being harassed by telemarketers from dawn until dusk," Mr. Salmon says. "No matter how many times you say that you are not interested, the calls just keep on coming."
The industry is battling the proposal, protesting that new restrictions on telemarketing would be too disruptive to their business, and opposing any requirements that they identify themselves on caller ID systems.
Richard Barton, senior vice president of the Direct Marketing Association, representing telemarketers, said creating a dinner time-out for telemarketers would have "far-reaching, unintended economic consequences" on an industry that made $230 billion in telephone sales last year. The Direct Marketing Association this month merged with an association of nonprofit groups, which also raise money by phone.
Outrage at increased telemarketing calls is prompting many states to adopt laws of their own. New York's state legislature last week approved a measure creating a statewide "do not call" registry of people who don't want telemarketing calls. Tennessee last month also established a don't-call registry for profit marketers, and Kentucky's legislature is considering a measure requiring telemarketers to identify themselves on caller ID devices.
Lawmakers say they are just as irate as everyone else at getting the unwanted calls.
Sen. Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, said he hears from angry constituents about abusive telemarketing calls every time he goes back to the Volunteer State. "They tell me it felt like their personal hours were intruded on, and they couldn't hold anyone accountable," he said.
Mr. Frist has sponsored a bill requiring telemarketers to stop using evasive technology to get around telephone caller ID systems.
"In America, telephone calls are going to be made, and telemarketing is pro-American, but we have to empower people to hold them accountable," he said.
Sen. Richard Lugar, Indiana Republican, complained that marketers have been able to track him down even though he has a "private" home number.
"I don't know how they're doing it, perhaps it's just a roll of the dice," said Mr. Lugar, who says he is just as annoyed as anyone else with the calls. He also has sponsored a bill to force telemarketers to abandon what he calls "stealth" calls to beat caller ID.
Under a 1991 federal telemarketing law, Congress required telemarketers to identify themselves and to comply with demands from consumers to have their names taken off calling lists. They are allowed to call from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, and from noon to 9 p.m. on Sundays.
But a loophole allows marketers to use caller ID blocking to keep their own numbers private when they make the calls, which appear on phone sets either as anonymous calls or "out of area" calls.
The 1991 law also provides an exception for people who have a business relationship with a telemarketing firm. That's how credit card companies can call their members offering additional services. And Congress last year adopted a new financial modernization law allowing banks and insurance companies to share information with telemarketing firms.
The business relationship loophole also permits telemarketers connected with Internet sweepstakes promotions, or those connected to on-line catalog companies, to use the phone number Internet surfers give them to make marketing calls later. Internet technologies also permit telemarketers to narrow down items that people are interested in buying.
"It's an old problem, but it gets worse every day," said Sen. Ernest Hollings of South Carolina, ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, which plans hearings next month on legislation about telemarketers.
"I understand their irritation," said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. Mr. McCain chairs the panel that is looking into an array of privacy issues caused by new technologies.
To get off telemarketing lists, go to www.the-dma.org/consumers/tps-sht.html or write to the Direct Marketing Association, Telephone Preference Service, P.O. Box 9014, Farmingdale, N.Y. 11735-9014 and ask that your number be removed.
Or try http://opt-out.cdt.org

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