December 11, 2006
Springfield, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon today urged the General Assembly to pass a bill in 2007 protecting Missourians on the state's No Call list from automated political calls, often referred to as "robo 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.
Nixon was at the old Greene County Courthouse in Springfield today to speak in support of changing the law. He was joined by state Rep. Sara Lampe of Springfield and Greene County Presiding Commissioner Dave Coonrod, both of whom also spoke in support of covering robo calls under the state's No Call law.
"Missourians on the No Call list were very vocal in complaining about these pre-recorded, automated calls, and I understand their frustration that the law doesn't cover these calls," Nixon said. "We're asking the General Assembly to sit up and take notice, so that more than 2.3 million Missouri families on the No Call list don't have to endure these calls."
Nixon said his staff has been working with several state legislators on proposals to include automated political calls under the No Call law. At least 20 legislators have pre-filed such bills since Dec. 1 or have announced their intention to pre-file or file such legislation.
"Missourians sign up for the No Call list because they want to minimize the telemarketing calls they get at home," Lampe said. "We need to close the loophole that allows the onslaught of automated political calls during the election season."
"Politicians should be subject to the same rules as other solicitors when it comes to annoying Missourians in their homes with these telemarketing calls," Coonrod said. "I support Attorney General Nixon's efforts to make the No Call list apply to people running for office."
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.
Nixon said he 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."
Missouri's No Call law took effect in July 2001. Since that time, almost 2.4 million 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.