Bill establishes 'no-call' telephone list

Tuesday, April 9th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A bill establishing a ``don't-call'' telephone list to protect consumers from unwanted telemarketing solicitations won final approval Tuesday in the Oklahoma Senate.

The measure, which passed 32-12, strikes a blow for privacy in the home and assures that Oklahoma citizens, beginning next Jan. 1, will ``no longer be bothered by annoying sales calls,'' said Sen. Keith Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, principal author.

The bill now goes to Gov. Frank Keating for his signature.

Leftwich said the bill generated more calls to his office than any measure he has ever offered. Oklahomans, he said, are fed up by high-pressure telemarketing tactics that disrupt their lives.

The proposal requires telemarketers to obtain a state list of people who do not want to receive telephone solicitations. The list would be updated quarterly.

The bill is patterned after a Missouri program that started last year and already has led to 910,000 residents of that state being placed on a ``don't call'' list, Leftwich said.

He said Oklahoma becomes the 24th state to pass such legislation in the last two years.

Leftwich introduced a similar bill a year ago, but it died in a joint House-Senate conference committee near the end of the session.

Attorney General Drew Edmondson is a supporter of the bill and his office will be in charge of enforcement, including setting up a schedule of fines for companies that violate the law.

Leftwich said he believes the attorney general's office will not be harsh with first offenders, but will crack down on repeat offenders.

``I think they're going to run them out of the state,'' he said.

The bill exempts charitable organizations that qualify under Internal Revenue Service rules and also does not apply to political groups.

Another exemption will be telephone calls ``for the sole purpose of arranging a subsequent face-to-face meeting between a salesperson and the consumer.''

Leftwich said that exemption was included to protect local merchants who make limited contracts over the telephone.

Sen. Charles Ford, R-Tulsa, questioned whether the attorney general could be successful in going after out-of-state companies that violate the bill's provisions.

Leftwich said the AG's office has been successful in fighting fraud through use of the telephone by out-of-state callers.

Ford was among 11 Senate Republicans who voted against the bill. But Leftwich said he is optimistic the bill would be signed by Keating, considering the strong bipartisan support the measure received in the House, where it was sponsored by Rep. Jim Newport, R-Ponca City.