No-call registry expands to cells
Starting today, consumers can add mobile numbers to list
By STACY FORSTER
Posted: June 5, 2008
Madison - Starting today, cell phone users for the first time will be able to add their numbers to the state's popular do-not-call list.
Getting On The List
Call (866) 9NO-CALL (966-2255) toll-free in Wisconsin
Go to nocall.wisconsin.gov
"This is in response to consumers' concerns about telemarketing over their cell phones," said Jim Rabbit, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. "Cell phone minutes cost money, unlike your hard line minutes."
The addition of cell phone numbers to the no-call list was part of the budget repair bill signed last month by Gov. Jim Doyle. Residents have until the end of August to be added to the list, and a new list will be provided to telemarketing companies in October.
About 1.1 million land lines are already on the Wisconsin list, but the state doesn't know yet how many cell phone users will add their numbers. Now, people might have several cell phone numbers but only one land line, Rabbit said, adding that many will probably add their mobile numbers when they re-register for the list as required every two years.
Residents can sign up a cell phone from any area code - even one from out of state - but must provide a Wisconsin ZIP code.
There were more than 3.6 million wireless subscribers in Wisconsin in June 2007, up from 2.5 million wireless users in 2002 when the no-call list was created, according to figures from the Federal Communications Commission. The group said there were nearly 3.1 million land lines in June 2007.
Jerry Bayuk of Madison said he's received a handful of telemarketing calls on his cell phone and plans to add his family's cell phones to the list as soon as possible, where they would join his land line number.
"Why should we pay for minutes when they're calling on the cell phones?" Bayuk asked. "Even on the house phones they're interrupting you from what you're doing. It ruins our quality of life by answering the phone all the time."
Bayuk said he'd like to see lawmakers stiffen penalties for telemarketers who violate the list and extend the law to fund-raising and political calls.
Marsha Benning of Milwaukee makes it a practice not to answer what she thinks are telemarketing calls to her cell phone and landline. "But trust me, I'll be on the cell phone no-call list, too," she said.
Telemarketers say extending the state no-call list to cell phones isn't necessary.
It's already against federal law for marketers to call consumers on cell phones, and mobile numbers can be added to the federal no-call list, said Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs for the Direct Marketing Association.
"The marketers are going to have to pay more money to get the Wisconsin list, which will be larger, and they'll have more numbers on it that they couldn't call anyway," Cerasale said. Although the group doesn't formally oppose the expansion, he called it "an absolute waste of resources."
Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Waunakee) said Wisconsin's law is tougher than the federal one because it has stricter rules for marketers. Adding cell phones now is a way of keeping up with technology as more people drop their land lines in favor of mobile phones, said Erpenbach, who pushed for the creation of the original do-not-call list and the expansion to cell phones.
"Even if they haven't received any telemarketing calls yet, they will if they don't put their number on the list," he said.
A dozen states have their own do-not-call lists, and Wisconsin joins Colorado, Florida, Tennessee and Oklahoma in allowing users to register their cell phone numbers, according to the Direct Marketing Association.
The state projects the expansion will cost nearly $200,000, which will be covered by fees paid by telemarketers, Rabbit said.
$100 fine per call
Penalties levied on those who violate the no-call list remain the same; telemarketers who call someone on the list face a $100 fine for each call.
The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection received nearly 3,200 written complaints last year regarding improper calls from telemarketers; officials expect that number to rise along with the number of cell phone numbers added to the list.
Doyle spokesman Lee Sensenbrenner said the no-call list expansion to cell phones was something Doyle has long supported and wanted to sign during the regular session, and including it in the budget repair bill was a way to get it done.
"The no-call list is the most popular consumer protection program we have had in Wisconsin . . . and we are happy to be able to add cell phone numbers to the no-call list," Sensenbrenner said in a statement.
Getting on the list
• Call (866) 9NO-CALL (966-2255) toll-free in Wisconsin
• Go to nocall. wisconsin.gov