Do not call list good, but what about spam?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 10, 2003

Tribune editorial staff

We would have never imagined that a silent telephone could make so many people happy. But it is true; America is all abuzz about silence - at least selected silence.

The newfound bliss comes in the form of the new federal do not call list.

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In case the fear of telemarketers have forced you into a voluntary communication hibernation, the new law, which goes into effect in October, will allow the Federal Trade Commission to track a national list of American residents who do not wish to receive telephone calls from telemarketers.

Furthermore, the new law contains serious teeth for offenders. Each violation is punishable by up to a $10,000 fine per incident. If you think about the number of telephones in any particular area, you can see the weight of this penalty is a real deterrent to potential telemarketers.

They simply cannot afford to risk calling someone who may be on the list. Telemarketers must know whom they are calling and keep their records constantly updated.

The do not call list is interesting concept, and in large part a good step. However it is not all encompassing.

The federal law will not prevent all telemarketing calls. Several exceptions to the rule exist and state laws still allow many telemarketing firms to reach out and touch you.

An interesting note, however, is that stopping telemarketers will not avoid other unintended intrusions into consumer lives.

Perhaps one of the most important issues national and state leaders should address is the electronic version of telemarketing - e-mail spam.

As annoying as a pushy telemarketer may be, we have never had one say anything to us that would make us blush with embarrassment. We wish we could say the same for Internet e-mail spam. Sit down with a group of people who regularly work or study on the Internet and the great majority can tell horror stories about receiving some vulgar, pornographic, offensive and unrequested message.

Until the government puts similar teeth into an anti-spam bill, give us a telemarketer any day.