Editorial: Don’t get hopes too high for do-not-call list

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 29, 2003

If Minnesota’s ballyhooed do-not-call list is any indication, many of the people who signed up for the new national list are going to be disappointed.

Thousands who have added their name to the state list were puzzled when they continued receiving sales calls. It happened because the Minnesota law is full of exemptions for non-profits, political parties and companies with whom the customer already has a business relationship. Telemarketers have acted fast to take advantage of the loopholes. Having an unsolicited free sample sent to your home, for instance, can count as having a past business relationship and open you up to telemarketing.

The national list, which grew to more than 700,000 on the first day Friday, is full of similar exemptions. The number of telemarketing calls to your home may go down if you’re on the list, but the calls will probably never disappear entirely.

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People are annoyed by telemarketers. The idea that these pitchmen supposedly wait until you’re sitting down for dinner to call has become a national cliche. It’s probably natural that politicians would try to score points with the public by targeting something as universally reviled as telemarketing.

But the government should either put together a do-not-call list that actually works, or drop the idea and let it be. Considering that telemarketing is actually an effective sales tool for many companies &045; they wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work &045; it can be reasonably argued that leaving it alone would have been the best idea. After all, telemarketing may be annoying, but it’s pretty harmless, and it isn’t the government’s job to help us escape every little thing that annoys us.