Arizonans are just one roll call vote and a signature away from being able to finally escape the reach — and calls — of telemarketers. But they’ll have to wait just a little while longer for the peace and quiet: The calls may keep on coming until October.
On a unanimous vote, the state Senate on Monday agreed to require Arizona companies to honor a national “do not call” registry being set up this summer by the Federal Trade Commission. The House, which already has given the plan preliminary approval, must ratify the bill with a roll call vote before it goes to Gov. Janet Napolitano for her anticipated signature.
Monday’s vote is a major victory for Senate Majority Leader Tim Bee, R-Tucson, who navigated the legislation around opposition from business interests, including car dealers and the Arizona Newspapers Association. Bee recrafted the measure several times to overcome as many objections as possible.
The biggest change is the fact that the federal government will run the system. Bee’s original plan included a “do not call” list operated by the Secretary of State’s Office. That brought complaints from businesses who would have to buy that list.
Instead, Bee opted to piggyback on new federal legislation that will regulate interstate telemarketers. Now all companies wanting to call Arizonans, whether located here or elsewhere, will have to abide by the list or face fines of up to $1,000 under state law or $11,000 under the federal statute. Beginning in July, the FTC will allow consumers to register to get on that “no call” list, either online or through a toll-free number.
The exact date remains up in the air: To avoid a sudden rush of phone calls on July 1, the federal agency will sign people up on a region-by-region basis over an eight-week period. But the Internet-based sign-up will be available nationwide in July.
In September, telemarketers and others will have access to that registry. By law, they will have to remove anyone who has signed up from their own call lists at that time — and every 90 days from then.
Enforcement will begin in October. Neither the state nor federal law will block all calls.
One big exemption is for political calls. “They’re not selling anything,” said Cathy MacFarlane, a press aide for the FTC.
But Bee said he isn’t worried that Arizonans are going to be beleaguered with calls from those seeking office. “Any politician that wants to make calls during people’s dinner hour does so at his own risk,” he said.
Charities also are exempt from having to honor the “no call” list.
But, the law is set up so that professional telemarketers hired by otherwise exempt groups do have to comply.
Businesses with an established business relationship can continue to make calls, even to those on a “no call” list. Such a relationship is defined as customers having made a purchase or payment within the last 18 months.
But the federal law says if the customer tells that company he or she does not want further calls, the company has to comply, even if there is an established business relationship.
In all cases, the law prohibits calls before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m.