TOPEKA — Kansas would expand its no-call law for telephone solicitors to include cellphones under a bill that won first-round approval Wednesday in the state Senate.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt proposed the measure, and it would give his office and county prosecutors the power to pursue complaints over unwanted cellphone calls. The bill advanced on a voice vote, and approval on a final vote, which is expected Thursday, would send the legislation to the House.
Kansas enacted the no-call statute in 2002 to protect residents from unwanted telemarketing calls to their personal numbers, though charitable, political and debt collection calls are exempt. People now add their numbers to a list maintained by the Federal Trade Commission.
The attorney general's office and county prosecutors can pursue complaints about solicitations made through landline phones but have no authority over calls made to cellphones. Schmidt's office told legislators that Kansas consumers filed 161 complaints about unwanted cellphone solicitations last year.
"With the changes in technology, state policy has not kept pace," said Senate Utilities Committee Chairman Pat Apple, a Louisburg Republican.
Under the no-call law, a telephone solicitor commits an "unconscionable act" to call a residential number that's on the no-call list. The attorney general's office, county prosecutors and consumers can sue them, with penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation.
The bill faced no opposition when Apple's committee considered it, but during Wednesday's debate, Sen. Dennis Pyle, a Hiawatha Republican, was skeptical of sending Kansas residents to the federal no-call list. That's the standard practice across the nation, and the Kansas attorney general's website links to the FTC's no-call site, which includes a link to its list or a telephone number to call.
But Pyle questioned whether the federal list is accessible to people without a computer or whether the few people who still use rotary-dial phones can navigate it.
"I guess, given all the debate currently that's out there about states versus federal government, etcetera, etcetera, we're pushing our consumers off to the Federal Trade Commission," Pyle said. "I'd still like to make sure that our consumers can easily access and get their numbers on the no-call list."