Know Your Caller Act clears House unanimously

Monday, October 2, 2000

A federal law aimed at regulating the practices of telemarketers
recently cleared the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 420-0.

The Know Your Caller Act, introduced by Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen,
D.- NJ in October 1999, prohibits telemarketers from interfering with the
caller identification services of call recipients.

The measure provides that is unlawful to “interfere with or circumvent
the capability of a caller identification service” and “to fail to provide
caller identification information in a manner that is accessible by a caller
identification service.”

On Sept. 27, the day the House passed the measure, Frelinghuysen said
the measure was necessary to protect the privacy rights of citizens.

“I believe that all commercial enterprises that use the telephone to
advertise or sell their services to encourage the purchase of property or goods
or for any other commercial purposes should be required to have the name of
their business and their business telephone number disclosed on Caller ID
boxes,” he said.

Frelinghuysen questioned the fairness of commercial entities which
compile personal information on consumers, but deny consumers the right to know
who is attempting to contact them.

“Some telemarketer enterprises purposely block out Caller ID, yet
these same companies know your name, your address and your telephone number,”
he said. “Is it not only fair that they share their company name and their
telephone number so a person can make sure that they are a legitimate company?”

At least one First Amendment expert says the measure, though designed
to protect privacy, raises First Amendment concerns.

“The bill raises the First Amendment issue of compelled speech by
requiring the caller to provide the name of the person or entity placing the
call, or on whose behalf the solicitation is made,” said Richard Kaplar, editor
of the Commercial Speech Digest.

“The measure seems overly broad, since it requires solicitors to

speech requirements that affect only those consumers who have caller
ID,” he said.

“An advertising solicitation arriving in one’s mailbox need not
announce itself with a return address. Nor is a door-to-door salesman
required by law to announce himself before a consumer opens the front
door. Why should a different standard apply to solicitations arriving
over phone lines?

The bill now goes to the Senate.

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