SACRAMENTO -- More than a million Californians are fighting back against unwanted telephone solicitations by signing up for a "do not call" list of numbers that will be off-limits to telemarketers.
Starting in October, telemarketers who ignore the prohibition will be subject to a federal fine of $11,000 per call.
State Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, who is handing off parts of the fledgling state program to the Federal Trade Commission, reported that, as of Friday, 1.9 million phone numbers had been registered by 1.08 million subscribers since the program kicked off April 1.
Following the lead of other states, California launched its "do not call" initiative in 2001 under legislation by state Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont).
Last year, the Federal Trade Commission agreed to operate a free national "do not call" registry, which duplicated many of the features of the California program. For reasons of economy and efficiency, the state decided to shift most of its program operations to the commission.
But the state kept certain enforcement responsibilities, such as prohibiting unsolicited pitches made by businesses -- among them banks, airlines and insurance companies -- whose calls are outside the jurisdiction of the federal commission.
Figueroa has introduced legislation (SB 33) to help California further conform to the federal program. It cleared the Senate on a 40-0 vote Thursday, and was sent to the Assembly for expected quick approval. One major provision would align the state's current maximum fine of $5,000 with the tougher federal fine of $11,000 per call. In addition, individual California consumers could seek compensation in small claims court.
In preparing to merge with the federal system, the attorney general's office has been accepting the "do not call" numbers from Californians online at www.nocall.ag.ca.gov, and will continue until July 1, when registrants will be automatically transferred to the commission's site at www.ftc.gov/donotcall.
The California program appears to be most popular in the Silicon Valley, where area code tracking shows that, since the start of April, 126,592 cell and residential numbers in the Silicon Valley had been put on the list, followed by 120,106 in San Francisco, 121,232 in Sacramento and 115,357 in the East Bay Area. For the same period, tracking reported Santa Monica (area code 310) recorded the most "do not call" numbers in the Southland, at 104,225.
Other Southland areas include: (909) San Bernardino-Riverside, 98,623; (714) Orange County, 96,021; (818) Van Nuys, 75,584; (949) Newport Beach, 73,139; (562) Long Beach, 46,271; (626) Pasadena, 42,756; (323) Los Angeles, 30,440; and (213) downtown Los Angeles, 7,495.