Bill could limit telemarketing


Tara Bordewyk, Cns

PIERRE – People may receive more protection from telemarketers under two bills that passed the South Dakota Senate Feb. 5.

Senate Bills 33 and 41 would tighten restrictions on telemarketers by creating a ‘do not call’ list for South Dakota residents who don’t want to hear from them.

“Eighty-one percent of South Dakotans support less telemarketing calls,” Public Utilities Commissioner Gary Hanson said.

Senate Bill 41 establishes the ‘do not call’ list of names of people who don’t want to receive the calls, said Charlie McGuigan of the Attorney General’s Office.

South Dakotans can pay a $5 fee to be listed and be free of telemarketers for five years. Only businesses that have current relations with those people would be allowed to call them if the bill passes. That existing relationship would include businesses that are collecting debts from that person or calling solely to set up a face-to-face meeting, he said.

The bill would prevent fraudulent telemarketing and enhance privacy, Public Utilities Commissioner Bob Sahr said. Consumers lose over $40 billion dollars a year from telemarketing scams.

The program will also help improve the image of telemarketers, he said. By listing the people who don’t want the calls; telemarketers can go directly to the people who do want the calls.

The bill applies to cellular phones as well as residential lines.

Violators would face maximum civil penalties carrying a $5,000 fine for each offense.

Senate Bill 33 would eliminate telemarketers who claim to maintain their business through a store, but actually do most of their business through telemarketing, said McGuigan.

These types of telemarketers fall under the merchant category, so they can make telemarketing calls any time of day, whil;e regular telemarketers can only call during certain hours of the day, he said.

Businesses must generate less than 25-percent of their revenue from phone sales in order to be able to call their customers anytime under the bill, State Sen. Eric Bogue, R-Faith, said.

Senate Bill 33 passed, 33-0, in the Senate, and Senate Bill 41 passed, 32-3, in the Senate. They now move to the House of Representatives for further consideration.