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No-call list popular in first year

By John Fryar
The Daily Times-Call

DENVER — Colorado’s “no-call” list, which allows residents to nix most telemarketing calls at home, now contains more than 1.1 million telephone and fax numbers.

In the first year the do-not-call measure has been in effect, said Attorney General Ken Salazar, “Colorado consumers have made their voices heard through overwhelming registration of their home and fax numbers and by filing complaints when the law is ignored.”

He said the state law and aggressive enforcement have dramatically decreased the number of unwanted calls being made to consumers.

According to Salazar, in the past year, his office has:

• Issued 214 cease-and-desist notices to telemarketers. Of those, 142 were to out-of-state companies and 72 to Colorado businesses. Most businesses immediately stopped violating the no-call law and agreed to comply in the future.

• Obtained eight “assurances of discontinuance” to complaints against eight businesses that did not respond to initial cease-and-desist notices, with the telemarketers agreeing to pay fines, attorney fees and other costs totaling $337,500. Those settlements resolved allegations of continuing violations of the no-call law after the eight companies eventually agreed to comply with it.

• Filed two civil lawsuits against telemarketers for continuing violations after attempts at getting voluntary compliance failed. If the attorney general’s office wins those cases, the court may impose penalties of up to $2,000 per violation — or $10,000, if the consumer was 60 or older — along with mandatory attorney fees and other costs.

Salazar warned, however, that the key to continued enforcement will depend on reports from residents on the state list whenever they get solicitations.

“We cannot take action against offending telemarketers unless citizens report the calls,” he said.

Salazar’s staff reported that since July 1, 2002, consumers filed 21,635 complaints about calls they’d received. The complaint average, however, decreased from 206 a day in the first month the law was in effect to 35 a day in June 2003.

Colorado’s law allows the state to bring an enforcement action against a commercial telemarketer for three or more violations in a month’s time. However, consumers can file their own lawsuits in small-claims courts for single violations of the law; consumers can recover a minimum of $500 per violation if the court finds in their favor.

Salazar’s staff noted that the next official updating of Colorado’s list will be effective Aug. 1. As the result of a bill the Legislature adopted earlier this year, consumers now can register their cellular phone numbers as well as home phones.

Consumers can enroll their home phones, wireless phones or fax numbers on the no-call list by calling a 1-888-249-9097 toll-free number or by registering online at www.coloradonocall.com.

Consumers may file complaints about possible violation of the no-call law by either calling 1-888-600-5688 or visiting www.coloradonocall.com.

Salazar reminded Coloradans that if they have registered their telephone numbers on this state’s no-call list, those numbers will be included automatically in the new federal no-call registry.

The Associated Press has reported that more than 12.5 million people have joined the federal registry since it began accepting consumers’ phone numbers last weekend. Colorado is one of at least 17 states that either have merged or plan to merge their lists with that national registry, so that consumers signing up for those states’ lists automatically are entered on the national list.