Magnarelli: Merging Federal, State Do-Not-Call Lists a Good Call for New Yorkers

July 9, 2003
A few years ago, New York’s state government created a law that helped to protect quiet family dinners and relaxing weekend afternoons. That law set up the state’s Do-Not-Call Registry, a list residents can sign up for to stop receiving calls from obnoxious telemarketers.

Since the creation of the state registry in 2001, 2.4 million households across the state signed up, and an estimated half-billion sales calls have been blocked from New York homes. In fact, the registry was so successful that the federal government has taken the cue and set up a national registry. To improve on the protections the Do-Not-Call registry offers, I helped pass a bill – which the governor signed – merging our list with the national one (A.8986). New York residents already on the state list will be automatically transferred to the national list.

The benefits for New York’s consumers are great. For one thing, since the state will no longer have to handle registration, taxpayers will save over $1 million in operating costs. For another, the federal law creating the registry has more teeth, with fines for violators reaching as much as $11,000 per violation – more than twice the highest state fine.

This is just the latest in a string of bills the Assembly has passed helping citizens deal with telemarketers. In 2000, we passed the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Protection Act. That law requires telemarketers to register and bond with the Department of State so fraud victims would have the means to recover their money; prohibits abusive marketers to contact a person if that person has told them they no longer wish to be contacted; requires telemarketers to disclose the purpose of their call before receiving personal information; and establishes civil penalties for violating the act, and misdemeanor offenses if convicted of engaging in deception (Ch. 546 of 2000).

Having a telephone line should not be an invitation for endless annoying calls from telemarketers. To be sure, many telemarketers are selling honest, valuable services. But many aren’t, and many citizens don’t want to deal with them in any case. New York has been a leader in preventing this kind of harassment, and I will fight to make sure we stay that way.

To sign up for the national do-not-call list, visit www.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222. People who sign up now should notice a downturn in the number of calls they receive after Oct. 1.