A bill proposing that recorded telephone sales pitches be prohibited in Utah is certain to be popular with anyone who has interrupted something important and scrambled to answer a ringing phone, only to be greeted by a recorded message.
The House Transportation and Public Safety Committee of the Utah Legislature unanimously approved such a measure this week. The bill now goes to the floor of the House, and deserves to be passed by both chambers of the Legislature.Essentially, the bill bans computerized dialing devices that simply work their way through a long sequence of phone numbers, delivering the recorded message whenever anyone answers.
In addition to the annoyance of such sales pitches, there are other good arguments for doing away with the practice. For example, in going down a list of sequential numbers, the computerized calls make no distinction between business and residential numbers, or even such places as hospitals, doctors' offices, or police and fire stations, thus tying up those lines.
Many people, as soon as they recognize that it is a recorded message on the line, promptly hang up. But that doesn't necessarily disconnect the message, which can continue to tie up a private phone line until the recording has finished.
Some may argue that the recorded calls are a type of free speech that cannot be prohibited, but commercial speech, especially if it is merely a "canned" message, should hardly over-ride the right of privacy and the freedom to be free of harassment by a machine.
Unfortunately, the bill, even if it passes, won't end the problem entirely since many such calls originate from out of state. As such, they fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
Yet any relief would be welcome. Moreover, once Utah and, hopefully, some other states end locally-generated sales recordings, Congress will come under increasing pressure for the same kind of ban on a national basis. Then maybe we'll have a little more peace and quiet.