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September 2004
Time Again to Sign up for the Wisconsin “Do Not Call” Telemarketer Registry

   More than 1.5 million Wisconsin residents have signed up for the state’s “Do Not Call” telemarketer registry, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection. The free registry, which became effective on January 1, 2003, requires consumers to re-register for the list every two years. For many consumers, that time is now. There are two primary ways to re-register, including: (1) visiting the Wisconsin No Call List website at https://nocall.wisconsin.gov/web/home.asp, or (2) calling 1-866-9NO-CALL (1-866-966-2255) toll-free in Wisconsin. If you don’t re-register, your name will be removed from the list and telemarketers will once again be able to call you.

   To date, more than 5,000 consumers have contacted the Department to complain about telemarketers violating the law. A number of these complaints have resulted in court cases being brought by the department and the Wisconsin Department of Justice against problem telemarketers who are calling consumers even though they are on the “Do Not Call” list. According to department spokesperson Glen Loyd, the average penalty paid by these telemarketers is $149 per call. The largest penalty paid to date is $55,975 for 375 illegal calls made by Soho Marketing of Irvine, California.

   The registry and its penalty provisions are likely to become the topic of a very active legislative debate when the 2005 Wisconsin Legislature convenes next January. You may have recently heard that a Dane County Circuit Court judge ruled that the department overstepped its authority by setting a maximum $10,000-per-illegal-call fine in its administrative rules rather than setting the maximum penalty at $100. This lower amount was set in the law, according to the judge, when Governor Scott McCallum vetoed the higher $10,000 penalty passed by the Legislature when he crossed out two of the zeros in that penalty amount.

   Now, Senator Jon Erpenbach (D–Middleton) and State Rep. Suzanne Jeskewitz (R–Menomonee Falls) have indicated they will introduce legislation to once again place the higher $10,000-per-violation penalty amount in the law. Rep. Jeskewitz recently argued in a press release, “The only way to make this law pack a punch to companies refusing to obey is to hit them in the bank account.” Also, according to press reports, Governor Doyle agrees that the $100 penalty is too low.

   On the other hand, several business groups including the Wisconsin Realtors Association, the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, and the Wisconsin Association of Health Underwriters argue that the higher penalty hurts small businesses and that lawyers would be more inclined to file costly private lawsuits if the potential penalty is once again increased to $10,000 per violation.

   What do you think? If you have an opinion on the Do Not Call list’s penalties, don’t be afraid to let your state legislative candidates know your position when they ask you for your vote. You can also call your state legislators tollfree at 1-800-362-9472. And don’t forget to re-register if you want to be kept on the state’s “Do Not Call” telemarketer registry.

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