By BARBARA POWELL
The Associated Press
JACKSON – State officials say they may have underestimated the public’s rancor toward telemarketers who ring them up at home.
Approximately 51,000 state residents added their home telephone numbers to a statewide do-not-call list on Tuesday – the first day that Mississippians could officially sign up for the new program. About 60 percent registered online, 40 percent by calling a toll-free number.
Some were so eager for the program to start that more than 1,000 jumped onto the state’s new do-not-call Web site during the few hours it was live last week for pre-launch testing. Once online, they signed themselves up immediately, and the Public Service Commission, which oversees the program, says it will honor their early registration.
‘Put me on the list’
“We’ve even had several walk into the office and say, ‘put me on the list’, and they signed those people up, too,” Public Service Commissioner Nielsen Cochran said. “We’re trying to make it very consumer friendly. Just let us know and we’ll put you on the list.”
The size of the initial response has Mississippi officials rethinking estimates of how many of the state’ 2.7 million residents will add their numbers to the list.
“We estimated between 300,000 and 400,000 total will sign up, but the early response was greater than we expected,” said Steve King, director of the Mississippi no-call program. “This just shows people are really fed up with it.”
Or, maybe, it doesn’t prove that.
The Federal Communications Commission says telemarketers make as many as 104 million calls daily to homes and businesses across the country. Mississippi is among 37 states that have or soon will have no-call lists.
But a 2002 survey by a New York think tank of 1,000 consumers in six states with active no-call lists showed that consumers may say one thing but do another. The states represented were New York, Connecticut, Kentucky, Indiana, Florida and Georgia.
Eight of 10 participants in the survey – conducted by the Information Policy Institute – said they had responded to a telemarketing appeal within the past 12 months.
Five of 10 said they had bought at least one product and, of that group, seven in 10 said they were happy with their purchase. The average purchase order was $50.
“People vocalize a lot of anger and frustration about telemarketing, but they’re still buying,” said Michael Turner, president and senior scholar of the Information Policy Institute. “This leads me to believe that the telemarketing industry is overreacting about the consequences.”
The industry, which employs 6.5 million people nationwide, predicts that as many as two million jobs will be lost because of the federal and states’ no-call registries.
The Federal Trade Commission estimates that the national registry will eventually have 60 million telephone numbers and that those on the list will get as many as 80 percent fewer calls.
Mississippi is not among the 14 states that have elected to merge their lists with the federal registry. So Mississippi residents who sign up for the state program will also have to sign up for the national registry if they want to be on that list.
Joining the national registry guarantees a spot on the state list because Mississippi will automatically pull the telephone numbers of its residents from the FTC’s list.