WASHINGTON Politicians have finally found an issue they all can agree on: Telemarketers calling at dinnertime are a scourge that must be repulsed.
Congress on Wednesday sent to President Bush two bills that would make permanent a program to protect consumers from unwanted phone calls from telemarketers. Its hallmark is the national "do not call" list.
"This initiative has proven to be one of the most popular laws in history," said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C. Extending the program was necessary "to avoid the wrath of millions of angry constituents."
The Do Not Call Registry, initiated in 2003, has been widely acclaimed for allowing Americans to eat their suppers in peace. Some 150 million people have listed their phones on the registry, which prohibits calls from telemarketers. The registry may be found on the Web at www.donotcall.gov/.
The House passed by voice vote and sent to the president a bill to make permanent the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to collect fees to run the program. "My legislation keeps the program free, simple and effective for consumers," said Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., sponsor of the Senate bill.
Telemarketers pay annual fees of up to $17,050 and must search the registry every month and drop from call lists the phone numbers of consumers who have registered.
Organizations engaged in charitable, political and survey work are exempt from the restrictions. Also, companies that have an established business relationship with a customer may call for up to 18 months after the last purchase, payment or delivery.