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Telemarketers who Ignore ‘Do Not Call’ List to Face Higher Fines

Senate raises deterrent for illegal calls, first penalty increase in 10 years

The State Senate yesterday passed unanimously legislation that will increase penalties for telemarketers who make unwanted sales calls in violation of the state’s “No Sales Solicitation Calls” statute. The legislation, Senate Bill 187, will next be taken up for consideration in the House of Representatives.

“Nothing is more annoying than an unwanted sales call, whether it comes in the middle of dinner or while you’re working during the day,” said Senator Thomas A. Colapietro (D-Bristol), co-chair of the General Assembly’s General Law Committee, “Unwanted calls are a nuisance, and they’re also illegal, but that hasn’t put a stop to them entirely. Since we first created a ‘Do Not Call’ list in Connecticut ten years ago, penalties for these violations have yet to be increased. That will change after today. Complaints show the need for an additional deterrent against telemarketers, and this bill provides it.”

More than 260 complaints of illegal calls were made to the state Department of Consumer Protection last year. Current law allows the state to impose fines for violations of the “No Sales Solicitation Calls” statute under the CT Unfair Trade Practices Act, and today’s legislation would create a further deterrent against unwanted calls by allowing the state to impose an additional $11,000 fine for violations.

For more than a decade, Senator Colapietro has fought to reduce the number of unwanted sales calls that interrupt the lives and privacy of Connecticut residents. In 2000, he championed passage of the Connecticut’s ‘No Sales Solicitation Calls’ statute, creating a ‘no call’ list that enabled consumers to opt out of most solicitation calls. As one of the first laws of its kind passed anywhere in the country, the Connecticut law would later serve as a model for the federal Do Not Call Implementation Act of 2003.

“Many of these unwanted calls are scams that target senior citizens and take advantage of their honesty to try and make a quick buck. Telemarketers are persistent, but so are we. The state and federal ‘no call’ lists have already caused a great reduction in unwanted calls, and they will prove even more effective with this increased deterrent,” said Senator Colapietro.

Following changes in recent years to both state and federal law, consumers who have registered their phone number with either the state or federal ‘Do Not Call’ programs are now automatically enrolled with both. Registration is free and does not expire.

To register a telephone number, consumers may call the state Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) toll free at (800) 842-2649. Alternatively, one may contact the Federal Trade Commission at (888) 382-1222. In both cases, calls must be made from the telephone number to be listed. Mobile phone and fax machine lines may also be registered.

In order to make a complaint about a violation of either the state or federal statute, consumers may fill out a form on the DCP website. In extreme cases, consumers may also file a criminal complaint against telemarketers for harassment by contacting their local law enforcement agency.