Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Wisconsin is also defending Do Not Call

Like Indiana, Wisconsin is also taking up the fight to protect state Do Not Call Laws from pre-emption by federal bureaucrats. The Daily Telegram of Superior has an editorial on the subject:

Wisconsin residents have spoken: They don't want their do-not-call list watered down
The Daily Telegram

Wisconsin’s popular no-call list for telemarketers has worked well since being put in place in January 2003. Those on the list will tell you they get few calls anymore from people selling products or services. But now its effectiveness is threatened by a challenge at the federal level. The Consumer Bankers Association, a national group, wants the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to invalidate a key part of the state law and water down the no-call list.

The FCC recently learned just how serious state residents take their do-not-call list when more than 6,000 comments were sent to the federal agency between Jan. 3 and Feb. 2. The Associated Press reported that it checked 10 percent of those comments and found that none favored the change sought by bankers association. No surprise there. Why would Wisconsin residents want to see their state law weakened?

Wisconsin’s list, which contains about 1.4 million phone numbers, requires businesses to register with the state and pay a fee to help cover program expenses if they want to conduct telemarketing in the state. But, with a few exceptions, telemarketers are not supposed to call the numbers on the list. The bankers association wants members to be able to call previous customers who now are on the no-call list. It argues that state no-call laws, such as those in Wisconsin and Indiana, should not be more restrictive than the national law. It maintains that the national Do-Not-Call Registry and its rules should serve as a uniform standard so that businesses don’t have to deal with different legal requirements from one state to the next.

The national Do-Not-Call Registry was set up in June 2003 by the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission. But from the standpoint of Wisconsin officials such as Gov. Jim Doyle and state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, who wrote the bill creating the no-call list, the federal list doesn’t go far enough in blocking unwanted calls. The federal list allows businesses to call consumers if they have conducted a business transaction with them in the last 18 months. Under the Wisconsin law, businesses can call previous customers once in a bid to win back their business if the relationship has ended. Banks can’t call people with checking accounts with them and who are on Wisconsin’s list, if the aim is to offer special loan deals, for example.
Similarly, in Indiana, banks can call customers about account information but can’t make telemarketing calls to pitch products. Michigan opted to designate the federal no-call list as its state list. That’s fine; that’s Michigan’s decision.

The FCC, which could take several months to make a decision, ought to leave the laws in Wisconsin and other states alone. Doyle has mounted a fairly effective campaign to oppose the change, but Wisconsin’s U.S. senators and representatives in Washington also need to get involved to help keep the state law intact.