November 15, 2006
Jefferson City, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon today urged the General Assembly to pass legislation in 2007 protecting Missourians on the state's No Call list from automated political calls. Such calls currently are not covered by the No Call law, and Nixon said his No Call unit received more than 600 complaints about automated political calls in the weeks before the 2006 election.
“Some consumers reported they received as many as eight of these pre-recorded, automated calls in a single night,” Nixon said. “Missourians are frustrated that they can't stop these calls by being on the No Call list. The peace and quiet they have from telemarketing calls is interrupted every two years by these robo-calls, and 2006 has been the worst year yet. I understand their frustration, and I'm asking the General Assembly to protect the 2.3 million Missouri families on the No Call list from these calls.”
Nixon was joined at news conferences in Kansas City and St. Louis today by several state legislators, including state Rep. Ed Wildberger of St. Joseph, who has previously sponsored legislation dealing with political calls. Legislators can pre-file bills for the 2007 General Assembly beginning Dec. 1.
A Minnesota law prohibiting automated political calls could serve as a model for a similar law in Missouri, Nixon said. That law has been upheld by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, the circuit that includes Missouri. A change to the No Call law would cover automated political calls, which are the source of the majority of complaints to Nixon's office. Political calls from a live caller generally have more free speech protections than automated calls, Nixon said.
The Attorney General said any No Call bill covering automated calls should have provisions to exempt calls such as those made in the context of an existing business relationship, such as notifying a customer when an order has arrived; those made from a doctor or dentist's office to remind a patient of an appointment; or those made from a school to a parent.
“Exceptions such as these are reasonable and would allow us to focus on the political robo-calls that are the biggest source of irritation,” Nixon said. “I look forward to working with members of the General Assembly in crafting a bill that will protect more than 2.3 million Missouri families and, at the same time, pass constitutional muster.”
Nixon wants legislation dealing with automated calls to be part of a larger bill that also would add cell phones and fax numbers to the No Call list. Similar legislation has been introduced in the past few years, and in both 2004 and 2006 made it unanimously through the state Senate, only to die awaiting action in the House.
“Telemarketing calls to cell phones and junk faxes to fax machines are unwanted intrusions,” Nixon said. “The General Assembly has another opportunity in the next few months to strengthen Missouri's No Call law and give Missourians more privacy protection.”
Nixon said the hundreds of complaints his office received in just a few weeks demonstrated that it was vital for legislators to listen to Missourians on the No Call list who want protection from automated political calls.
“During the last legislative session, there was a House committee chair who kept a No Call bill bottled up in his committee, despite the overwhelming bipartisan support of the committee members,” Nixon said. “He is now a former state representative.”
Missouri's No Call law took effect in July 2001. Since that time, 2,363,549 residential phone numbers have been placed on the list. Nixon's office also has collected more than $1.7 million from telemarketers who violated the law. The money collected has been put back into the No Call program to keep it free of cost for Missourians.