Cell phones may be added to Missouri 'no call' list

Friday, December 17, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Cell phone users could join Missouri's "no call" list under a proposal to strengthen the state law that cracks down on unwanted solicitations from telemarketers.

Although more than 1.7 million residential phone numbers are currently on the list, the existing statute doesn't apply to cellular customers. State Rep. David Pearce, who has already filed a bill to include cell phones for consideration in the legislative session that begins Jan. 5, said cell users deserve the same protections as those with traditional land lines.

"It is a very consumer-friendly piece of legislation," said Pearce, R-Warrensburg. "The insidious problem with telemarketing to cell phones is the consumer pays for it."

Since many cell phone service plans give a customer a fixed number of minutes, unwanted calls can cause the user to exceed their allotted time and incur extra charges.

According to figures supplied by Pearce, there currently are roughly 3 million cell phones users in Missouri, up from about 1.9 million in 2001.

Attorney General Jay Nixon, whose office administers the no call program, has endorsed the bill. The explosion in cell phone use since the no call law was first adopted in 2000 leaves a major gap in the law's protections, Nixon said.

"Mobile phones have moved from being a luxury to being a staple in most households," Nixon said. "Many Missourians don't want to get telemarketing calls on their cell phones any more than they want to get those calls at home."

The legislation would also bar unwanted text messaging spam.

A similar bill failed to clear the legislature this year. Various attempts to bolster Missouri's no-call law have made little progress since the original statute was enacted.

Pearce said efforts to remove some of the exemptions that allow phone companies, charities and others to ignore the no call restrictions helped derail earlier bills. He plans to avoid that problem.

"This bill does not touch any of the exemptions," Pearce said. "We are not going to open up that can of worms."

Telemarketers who call numbers on the no-call list are subject to fines of up to $5,000 per offense. Nixon's office has collected nearly $1.2 million in no-call fines.

Missourians can register for the no call list by calling toll free to (866) NOCALL1 or online at www.ago.mo.gov.

The bill is HB 89.

mpowers@semissourian.com

(573) 635-4608

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