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Telemarketing Study Results

By Attorney General Patricia Madrid

     If there is one fact about telemarketing calls that we can all agree upon it is that the volume has increased substantially over the last ten years. And if there is one thing that almost all of us agree on, it is that these telemarketing calls are annoying and intrusive. Regardless of how you feel, the fact is that technological advances such as "predictive dialers" allow one telemarketing employee to increase their number of calls. You have probably experienced these advances when you have answered the phone only to find "dead air." As the number of calls have increased so have the number of complaints about them.

     During the 2002 Legislative Session Senator Dede Feldman introduced legislation that required my office to conduct a study of telemarketing in New Mexico. The study is complete and I want to share the results with you.

     In the summer of 2002, a New Mexican polling firm conducted a scientific statewide public opinion survey. The survey questioned 501 New Mexico households. Findings of the study included:

    91% of those surveyed described telemarketing calls as "annoying and intrusive," while only 4% described them as "helpful and informative."

    94% of those surveyed voiced support for creation of a New Mexico Do Not Call List.

    89% of those surveyed described themselves as likely to sign up for a Do Not Call List if free to them and 50% would sign up if there was a charge of $10 per year.

    69% of those surveyed stated that creating a Do Not Call List was a "high priority" for this legislative session.

     Nearly nine-in-ten survey respondents indicated that they receive more than one call per week from telemarketers who want to sell them something, or have them enter a sweepstakes or contest, make an investment or donate to charity. From this survey it is easy to conclude that the vast majority of New Mexicans do not welcome these intrusions.

     In addition to the scientific survey, I asked the opinion of New Mexicans at a town hall as well as in an op-ed article that appeared throughout the state. At the town hall support for a Do Not Call List was unanimous.

     The most surprising result of this study came from the letters we received in response to the op-ed article that appeared in December 2002. I received 624 letters. The letters came from three-quarters of the counties in the state. The opinions in the letters were unanimous -- people do not want to receive calls from  telemarketers; they want to be left alone.

     Currently, if you do not want to be contacted by a telemarketer, you can tell the business to put you on a do not call list.  In theory, that business should not call you again. That is not always the case according to New Mexicans who have complained to my office. There seems little doubt that New Mexicans would like to regulate telemarketers.

     We are not the only state where consumers have requested relief from telemarketers. To date, 27 states have do not call lists. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are both proposing rules to create a national Do Not Call Registry.  It is possible that consumers may be able to begin registering by calling a toll-free number as early as this summer. However, a number of telemarketing firms have filed a lawsuit to prevent the implementation of the registry.

     New Mexicans need to be given the opportunity to prohibit businesses from contacting them if that is their choice.  I recommend that we enact legislation during the current session to create a Do Not Call List in New Mexico.  We can utilize the national registry database created by the FTC, and thus avoid the cost of establishing a state unique database.

     I would also recommend that our laws:

    Require that telemarketers identify the purpose of the call as a sales call or telemarketing call within 15 seconds after the call is answered;

    Prohibit telemarketing calls between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.

    Prohibit the false identification of a telemarketing call as a "courtesy call," public service call, or personal call if its true purpose is to sell goods or services or to solicit money.

     Senator Dede Feldman is introducing legislation to establish a Do Not Call List in New Mexico.  If you believe it is important to have such a list, I urge you to contact your legislators and voice your support for the bill