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Several States Considering Legislation That Would Restrict Telemarketing

Aired January 12, 2001 - 4:33 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, several states are considering giving you more shelter at home from those pesky telemarketers: Do- not-call lists that telemarketers must abide by may be in the future.

Here's CNN's Frank Buckley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ken Crusias is whipping together dinner for a busy family, and this is precisely the time, he says, when the phone seems to ring and bring unwelcome intrusions...

KEN CRUSIAS: Hello.

BUCKLEY: ... from telemarketers. This time they were spared. But the Crusias family says on some evenings they receive several calls from people trying to sell them something while they're trying to have dinner.

THERESA CRUSIAS: And I'm very angry and very frustrated.

If I want to buy something, if I want to give something to charity -- we're very generous -- I'll do it. I don't want anybody bothering me.

BUCKLEY: She's not alone, and her state legislature in New Jersey is now considering bills to block such calls.

Linda Greenstein calls it "commercial harassment."

LINDA GREENSTEIN, NEW JERSEY STATE ASSEMBLY: Certainly it's commercial, because we're talking about commercial calls, and I think it's gotten to the level of harassment.

BUCKLEY (on camera): New Jersey is joining a growing number of states which are either considering or already have laws creating do- not-call lists. But some consumer advocates say these lists do little more than reduce the number of calls coming in because of exceptions allowed under the laws.

(voice-over): Exceptions for nonprofit or political organizations and certain businesses. PAT FALEY, DIRECT MARKETING ASSOCIATION: The state laws represent important progress, but to get to the promised land we really need to have a national law that protects all Americans.

BUCKLEY: Telemarketing advocates say a national list already exists, an industry list used by members of the Direct Marketing Association, who voluntarily block calls to consumers who have said they don't want them. The industry also points to more than $612 billion in telemarketing sales last year as evidence some consumers appreciate the calls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know in my own instance I was paying too much for my telephone bills, and I got an offer and managed to reduce my cell phone bill by 50 percent because of a call to me, which I did appreciate.

BUCKLEY: For those who don't want such calls, there's legislation in 13 states providing for do-not-call lists, other states considering similar laws. Or there's the "Seinfeld method."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SEINFELD")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Well, I...

JERRY SEINFELD, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: I'm sorry. Excuse me one second.

(PHONE RINGING)

Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Hi. Would you be interested in switching over to TMI long-distance service?

SEINFELD: Oh, gee, I can't talk right now. Why don't you give me your home number and I'll call you later?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, I'm sorry. We're not allowed to do that.

SEINFELD: I guess you don't want people calling you at home.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No.

SEINFELD: Well, now you know how I feel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCKLEY: Frank Buckley, CNN, Trenton, New Jersey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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