The Telemarketing Intrusion — Give Consumers Their Rights

With today’s hectic lifestyles, the home often becomes a retreat, a place where one has control of one’s life in an often uncontrollable world. The home is a sanctuary where one can rest from the fast pace of modern society. To be offered an invitation into someone’s home, to be allowed to share a piece of that sanctuary, is a privilege, not a right, and who is and is not allowed in should be at the sole discretion of the homeowner.

Telemarketers believe otherwise.

For on a nightly basis, call after call is placed, and telemarketers intrude, on family gatherings, on dinners, on periods of much-needed and often far-between rest. They enter through the phone line and interupt that peace and separation from the outside world with a loud ring. And over the years, the calls have become so frequent and so commonplace that the very sanctuary known as home is at jeopardy of becoming just another outpost of frustration, trivializing what a home is intended to represent.

Telemarketing has been such a plague on New Jersey telephone customers for the longest time. And every time legislation is sponsored to deal with the problem, it gets watered down by special interest groups to the point where the legislation becomes ineffective and does little to solve the issue.

To me, and to most citizens, it matters little who is making the call, whether it is intended to sell me something, to ask me to donate to a cause, be it worthy or not, or simply to tell me for whom I should vote. The phone calls are intrusive regardless of content, and it ought to be the telephone consumer’s right to decide who is allowed to call them. That’s the position I took in a recent debate on the issue before the Senate Commerce Committee. While that proved to be an extremely minority view in the Legislature, we nonetheless were able to move on a bill that brings us much closer to passing real telemarketing reform.

The bill which will soon be voted on in the State Senate makes some exceptions. I would have preferred that the bill provide for no exceptions, but I believe the telemarketing bill as it stands now provides for a strong start towards the end of telemarketing’s reign of intrusion.

Telemarketing by its very nature is intrusive, inconsiderate, and may often lead to unscrupulous telemarketers preying on the ears, and sometimes pockets, of well-mannered people who just cannot bring themselves to match the rudeness of the rapid-fire sales pitch coming from the other end of the telephone line. These people become captive audiences to the incessant droning of the telemarketer. However, the telemarketing bill establishes for the first time New Jersey’s “Do Not Call” list and blocks those telemarketers who by their very nature are intrusive, inconsiderate, and possibly unscrupulous.

If passed, these people will have a tool to keep the calls from ever being made in the first place. They will be able to make a quick call to a toll-free phone number and be forever free of most unwelcome intrusions on their peace of mind.

I may have wanted a more comprehensive telemarketing ban, but I believe quick passage of the bill will take us far along the road towards a world of greater personal privacy.

I, like many of my fellow New Jerseyans, look forward to a day when the phone stops ringing. I look forward to a day when New Jersey residents can reclaim their homes and their peace of mind. I look forward to a day when a person can say who stays and who goes in his or her home. After all, though we may not all live in a castle, we should at least be able to make sure the barbarians have to stay at the gate.

Senator Furnari represents the 36th legislative district, which includes parts of Bergen, Essex and Passaic, is the chairman of the Senate State Government Committee, vice chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.