PSC looking into no-call list violators

Published 3:45 pm Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Telemarketers who make unwanted phone calls to residents or fail to pay a $1,000 annual fee for the state’s no-call list could soon find themselves on the other end of an unpleasant conversation with the Mississippi Public Service Commission.

Commissioners say they are in the process of cracking down on violators of the state’s no-call registry because new telemarketers are entering the state without paying the $1,000 registration fee and the $50,000 surety bond required by state law.

Some telemarketers are unaware of the law, Commissioner Brandon Presley says, and they are purchasing no-call list from third parties that don’t always include every Mississippi residents on the state’s no-call list.

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“In the past, we have done a poor job of communicating the rules to not just the telemarketers, but mainly to the public about filing complaints,” said Presley, one of two new commissioners on the three-member utility regulatory board.

“Sometimes, it takes enforcement to raise awareness, and that’s what we are trying to do.”

Telemarketer Fredrick Adams says he was unaware of the state law, which went into effect in 2003, the same year he started Adams Family Marketing Firm.

Adams appeared before the PSC this past week after a Mississippi resident complained that she was illegally contacted by Adams Family Marketing. The woman was on Mississippi’s no-call list, the commission said.

Adams, whose company markets wheelchairs, diabetic supplies and other products in several states, said he bought a national no-call list from a Florida-based company and had no clue that Mississippi had a separate list and a registration fee.

“Every state is different. Mississippi is the only state that we have had trouble in and we market all over. I haven’t had any problems in other states. They don’t have fees like Mississippi,” said Adams, who said he will now pay the fee and get registered.

“I think they (the commission) understand that I didn’t know,” he said.

Presley said it appears the owner of Adams Family Marketing simply didn’t understand the rules and his office has sent 280 letters to telemarketers doing business in Mississippi, advising them of the law.

The PSC hasn’t made a decision on possible penalties against Adams in the case, but Presley said his office has over 20 cases yet to be resolved against telemarketers.

The commission also recently approved a proposal, forcing telemarketers to sign an affidavit that they will not block their numbers or disguise who they are when making calls.

“And … I am going to be sending a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking them to include Mississippi’s numbers,” Presley said. “If you register on the Mississippi no-call list, they ought to upload that into the federal list.”

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