Long before the Federal government got into the act, Wisconsin created a so-called no call list. Having now been on the no-call list for over a year, it is time to examine just how effective that legislation has been.

The executive summary to such an investigation might read like this: The no-call list is a joke.

Since we signed up for the no-call list, the number of calls we get from telemarketers has probably trebled. Not a day goes by that we don’t get a call from someone trying to sell us vinyl siding, replacement windows, local telephone service, long-distance telephone service, or other products and services in which we have no interest.

Wisconsin’s no-call list is the result of a particularly useless piece of legislation. There are so many loopholes that you would have a very difficult time finding some way to apply the list to yourself. The following are the built-in loopholes to the law:1. Calls made to an existing customer - for example, calls from: the bank you have a checking account with, your phone company or your credit card company.

  1. Calls made in response to your written or verbal request or permission.
  2. Calls encouraging you to make a donation of property, goods or services to a “nonprofit organization.”
  3. Calls encouraging you to purchase property, goods or services from a “nonprofit organization” unless sale proceeds are subject to Wisconsin sales tax or federal income tax.
  4. Calls made for noncommercial purposes such as polls, surveys and political purposes.
  5. Calls made to a business telephone number.
  6. A call made by an individual acting on his or her own behalf, and not as an employee or agent of any other person. As you can see, those are some pretty broad holes.

Easily the worst offenders are the various state trooper, firemen, police officer, and whatnot organizations. These people call all the time asking for money. Politically, no one is going to go after these supposed non-profits because the members of the organizations will just accuse the government flacks of persecuting valiant public heroes.

MCI (nee WorldCom) calls us every few weeks asking us to change our local telephone service over to “The Neighborhood.” Since we have no current business connection with MCI, my only guess is that they are calling in flagrant violation of the no-call list. However, I’m sure if they were pressed, they would indicate that we asked (per item number two above) to be pestered at all hours to buy a service we don’t want.

Let’s say, for instance, that I wanted the state to go after MCI for bugging me. First, I would have to gather the following information from the telemarketing-drone on the other end of the telephone:1. The telephone number from which the telemarketer is calling.

  1. The company for which the telemarketer works (this may not be the same company or organization for whom they are calling)
  2. The telemarketer’s Wisconsin telemarketing license number
  3. The telemarketer’s manager’s telephone number.
  4. The physical address of the telemarketing company. Why on earth would a telemarketers stay on the telephone with me long enough to provide all that information? If I was a telemarketer, and if someone started bugging me for all that information, I’d hang-up on them.

So, even if I could gather all that information, and if I then took the time to fill out a long form, and if I then submitted that form to the state, most likely, nothing would happen.

The reason is that the state only goes after flagrant violators that receive hundreds of complaints. Hundreds of people would have to waste the same amount of time that I did in completing the above procedure.

Even then, the chances of dragging a telemarketing company into court are vanishingly small. Usually, the state enters negoiations with the company. These negoiations then result in a generally small amount of money changing hands and an oh-so-solemn promise by the violator never to do it again.

That’s why I just shake my head whenever I hear about how the federal courts might strike down the sacred no-call lists. Let ‘em strike the useless things down. Clear the books of yet another toothless, worthless law.