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May 2005

The Do Not Call Law and Your Cell Phone

    Lately I have received a number of comments from readers questioning whether or not the Wisconsin “Do Not Call” law applies to cell phones. The readers said they had received unsolicited telemarketing calls on their cell phones.

   Consumer concerns appear to be growing because of the national controversy that has arisen over whether or not consumers’ personal cell phone numbers should be included in a telephone directory. Some of the major wireless cell phone providers have announced an intention to establish a “411 directory” of customers’ cell phone numbers beginning later this year. However, Verizon and U.S. Cellular, locally, have announced they will not participate in this directory. The participating companies have said that they will publish the numbers only after receiving their customers’ consent and will only make those numbers available to those who dial directory assistance and pay a fee. In other words, these companies argue that it would be too expensive for telemarketers to obtain this information on individual consumers.

   Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach is concerned about the directory and notes the Wisconsin “Do Not Call” law does not apply to cell phones. He is drafting legislation that would include personal cell phone numbers within the state law. Senator Erpenbach argues, “Wisconsin’s No Call list is the toughest in the nation. Our penalties for telemarketers who violate the provisions of the No Call list are much stronger than those in the federal No Call list. While the federal No Call list includes cell phones, the penalties are not tough enough to discourage telemarketers from violating the law. By including cell phones in Wisconsin’s law, we ensure that all of our state’s citizens will have peace at dinner time or anytime, whether they have a land line or cell phone in their homes.”

   Erpenbach notes the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been accepting personal cell phone numbers for registration under the federal “Do Not Call” law since June 2003. If you want to register a telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry, visit www.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222. If you are registering a phone number online, you will be asked to provide a valid e-mail address so the FTC can send you confirmation of your registration. Please note a registration is not complete until you click on the link in the FTC’s e-mail to you. For consumers registering by phone, you must call from the phone number you wish to register. You can also file complaints at the above website or by calling the toll-free number.

   I will provide you with updates as the state legislation moves forward.

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