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ONE CALL STOPS PHONES SOLICITORS

ONE CALL STOPS PHONES SOLICITORS

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For everyone frustrated with telemarketers calling during dinner -- and that’s probably just about everyone -- the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) can offer some relief. Consumers may submit their names and telephone numbers to the TRA’s “Do Not Call” program by either calling a toll-free number (1-877-872-7030) or completing an online form available on the TRA’s Web site (www.state.tn.us/tra). The “Do Not Call” program was instituted following passage of TCA 65-4-401 through 65-4-408, which allow for the creation of such a program and define several applicable terms, such as “solicitor.” Though the program only officially began on August 1, 2000, already some 550,000 Tennesseans have registered for the service. “We appear to have started a pretty popular program here,” says program coordinator Ed Mimms. “We vigorously enforce it. After a consumer has reported a violation, we investigate it to make sure the consumer’s name is on the list and then we send the violating company notice of the alleged violation. In most instances we get a response from the company after that.” Mimms says that several fines apply to companies not in compliance with the law. A company can be fined up to $2,000 for not registering themselves as telemarketers with the TRA. The company may also be fined $2,000 for not responding to a violation notice, and they can be fined another $2,000 if they are proven to have called a registered consumer. The statute defines a solicitor as a company or other organization that makes more than three calls a week in order to sell a product. Also, solicitors may only call between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. and cannot knowingly block identifying information from appearing on a consumer’s caller ID device. While no fines have been levied against any violators to date, Mimms says they have already investigated 577 cases of non-compliance. “It’s a lot like speed limits, though,” says Mimms. “There’s always going to be someone out there who is not aware of the regulations.” The statute also provides a few exceptions for telemarketers. If a consumer has given the company permission to call (i.e., signed up for a promotion, returned a post card) the solicitor is exempt from the regulations. Also, if the consumer and the solicitor have a preexisting business relationship that has been active within the past 12 months, the solicitor may call. TRA spokesman Greg Mitchell says the program has been so well received that people were signing up before it even began.

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