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June 20, 2012 - Missouri's no-call list now can prevent telemarketing calls and scams from reaching cell phones.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signs House Bill 1549 into law last week during a ceremony at the South County Senior Resource Center in Lemay. HB 1549 allows cell-phone numbers to be added to the stateís no-call list. Kari Williams photo. (click for larger version)
Gov. Jay Nixon signed House Bill 1549, introduced by Rep. Todd Richardson, R- Poplar Bluff, into law last week at the South County Senior Resource Center in Lemay. HB 1549 allows cell-phone numbers to be added to the state's no-call list, which prohibits telemarketers from making unsolicited contact.
"We've seen a significant shift from landlines to cell phones over the last years ...," Nixon said. "As cell phones have gone up without the protection there, that's where folks have gone to bother people."
Rep. Scott Sifton, D- Affton, said he has received text-message solicitation while in session.
"We have these texts and these calls coming all the time to people, frequently interrupting very important business or just important family time," Sifton said.
Missouri's original no-call law, which was passed in 2000, became an "immediate hit," according to Nixon.
In 18 months, 1 million Missouri residents were registered and by 2006, 2.3 million landline phones were on the list.
Nixon said the state's annual top-10 list of consumer complaints was "dominated by scams over the phone," travel scams and phony sweepstakes.
"(The no-call list) has been so successful that we saw telemarketing fraud complaints drop from being our No. 1 complaint to completely out of the top 25," Nixon said. "Unfortunately, as technology's moved forward, those scam artists are heading where the cell phones are now, and that's why this bill is so, so important."
Attorney General Chris Koster said his 71-year-old mother became the first Missourian to put herself on the new version of Missouri's no-call list.
"And starting today (June 14), every Missourian enjoys the same right to protect their cell phones from annoying telemarketers," Koster said.
Missourians who register for the no-call list by July 31 will begin being covered Oct. 1. Those who sign up from July 31 to the end of October will be covered beginning Jan. 1.
The new law, however, will not stop robo-calls from telemarketers who are exempt from the no-call list, Koster said.
"The political — unfortunately, in my estimation — the political class remains exempted from this list," Koster said. "Ö So the political calls and the telemarketing calls that if you have a pre-existing business relationship remain."
One of the challenges with enforcing the no-call list, according to Koster, is that cases come from overseas or blocked phone numbers.
"Enforcement can be very challenging, but we do have a diligent crew that is working on this," Koster said. "(We have) about five people working 365 days a year trying to protect Missourians' privacy who take the time to put their name on this list."
Signing HB 1549 was "another milestone" for the state in its efforts to protect Missourians from unsolicited calls, text messages and potential fraud, according to Nixon.
"We don't monitor calls. We don't check for stuff. It's a complaint-driven system, and this is going to be true here also (with the new bill)," Nixon said. "... The attorney general's office needs those complaints to make those cases to make sure we make it stick."
The attorney general's office last year received more than 22,000 consumer complaints about telemarketers and was awarded more than $1 million in fines and penalties from telemarketers who ignored the state's no-call list, according to Koster.
"That money funds our enforcement efforts and serves as a deterrent to other telemarketers," Koster said. "Twelve years ago, the no-call list saved the dinner hour in this state. Today, this action extends that protection to a new technological era."
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