Public Service Commission Chairman Brandon Presley said he’s tired of seeing predatory telemarketers escape punishment through loopholes in the law and abuse of Caller ID technology.
“I have always believed in hitting these telemarketers where it hurts – in their wallets,” said Presley. “It is the victims, whose privacy has been invaded, who should be the beneficiaries of monetary damages where possible.”
This week, Presley instructed the PSC’s legal staff to devise amendments to the state’s No-Call Law for possible new legislation to create the right for victims to directly sue telemarketers for at least $500 in damages per call when a violation occurs.
Corinth Rep. Nick Bain said he commends the commissioner for his leadership on the issue.
“Citizens of Mississippi have been victimized by these predators for far too long,” Bain told the Daily Corinthian. “I fully support what Commissioner Presley is attempting to do.”
Similar rights exist for customers on the Federal Do Not Call List, but a lawsuit is not currently an option for those on Mississippi’s No-Call list.
Under the proposal, the PSC would continue to enforce the state’s No-Call law, but consumers would have a route to also be personally compensated for damages and violations.
Under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, anyone on the federal No-Call list who receives more than one call over a 12 month period in violation of the Act can sue to recover actual monetary damages or $500 for each violation, whichever is greater. However, violations of the state’s No-Call law results in no such compensation to victims, with all fines and fees only covering administration of the law.
Presley said PSC will continue to track predatory telemarketers down and issue fines, but he wants to make sure those victimized by such illegal practices have every possible option available to them under the law.
“They should have the right to be compensated,” Presley said.
PSC legal staff will prepare draft legislation for consideration of the Commission to endorse and request for the 2018 session of the Mississippi Legislature which begins in January.
Presley also recommends local AT&T smartphone users download a new app meant to cut down telemarketing, spam and fraud calls.
“Call Protect” is available for download in the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for free. Only iPhone 6 and above owners and certain Android devices are eligible.
“This app will alert you that certain calls are from telemarketers and scammers,” said Presley. “It also automatically blocks calls that are known to be fraud, so your phone doesn’t even ring.”
(For more information about the PSC’s enforcement of the No-Call List, visit psc.state.ms.us or call 1-800-637-7722.)