Whitesburg KY

Stop nuisance calls

State Rep. Gerald Watkins of Paducah has sponsored some legislation we approve of.

Watkins is a Democrat who represents District 3. He sponsored House Bill 413, which raises fines on people who sell your cellphone number to telemarketers without written consent to between $1,000 and $10,000.

Our only criticism of the measure is that it does not include a period of daily waterboarding. Perhaps in the Senate.

We jest, if a bit grudgingly. Watkins sponsored the bill after receiving numerous calls from telemarketers on his cellphone despite having his number on the Do Not Call Registry for years. He is obviously not alone in this experience. The House passed Watkins’s measure unanimously last Thursday. It now awaits committee assignment in the Senate, where we would expect smooth sailing.

George W. Bush signed the bipartisan bill creating the National Do Not Call Registry in 2003. Kentucky and many other states passed their own versions around the same time. The law in those days was a reaction to growing intrusions by telemarketers into people’s households. The development of automatic dialing technology led to a surge of solicitation calls at all hours. The nation grew fed up, and laws cracking down on the practice passed overwhelmingly at the federal and state levels.

The laws weren’t perfect, but they helped. They generally allowed businesses to continue to contact people with whom they had done business within the past six months. Thus, if you were on the registry, the people who trimmed your hedges in the spring could call to see if you wanted repeat service in the fall without running afoul of the law.

Politicians also exempted themselves from the law — ostensibly because calling you about political matters is protected by the First Amendment — but really because they are politicians. The law also exempted pollsters and people who solicit for charity from penalties for calling people on the registry.

A good feature of the law is that it requires the caller not to block identifying information on caller ID. A pollster can call you, but you don’t have to answer.

Unfortunately over time unscrupulous people have found ways to abuse the law. Some call claiming to represent charities or charitable causes, when in reality they are seeking money for themselves or credit card numbers they then use for fraudulent activity. Others call claiming to be conducting political polls, but they really are simply trying to damage specific political candidates by using slanted or even defamatory questions.

Nothing however has been more annoying than the growing number of robocall solicitations to people’s cellphones in brazen violation of the Do Not Call regulations. These calls frequently come from criminal elements. They often use “spoof” phone numbers on caller ID and just as often originate outside the country.

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