Without Ohio's help, the national do-not-call registry may not be a ringing success in the state. Columbus needs to give legislative muscle to the federal rule to effectively cover those who violate it mostly in Ohio.
Because there is no state law corresponding to the national no-call registry, the attorney general has no authority to investigate and prosecute violations that occur on the state level. Consumers on the national registry can report violations to the Federal Trade Commission and the state attorney's office for redress.
But unless the reported violations span the country or the number of state complaints is so large as to make it a federal case, telemarketers operating just inside a state like Ohio might not draw as much FTC attention as other businesses and could dial away with impunity.
“Without a state law, [Attorney General] Jim Petro will have no authority to enforce this in state court,” said Kathy Keller of the AARP, a proponent of a state do-not-call regulation. A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office said without an Ohio registry, “we do not have the jurisdiction to go after those violators in our local courts.” Besides, Michelle Gatchell added, “The feds have so much going on, it would be easier if we could pursue violations on a state level.”
To that end, the state Senate approved a do-not-call law in May and sent it to the House. It would establish a state registry and give the attorney general authority to go after violators with civil penalties of $500 to $2,000 for each violation. Sponsor Sen. Robert Spada is encouraging Rep. Bill Seitz, chairman of the House Civil and Commercial Law Committee, to move expeditiously on the measure.
The North Royalton Republican is on the right track to empowering Ohio consumers who do not want telemarketers calling their homes. By Labor Day weekend consumers nationwide had put 41.7 million telephone numbers on the national FTC registry, including 1.7 million from Ohio.
With a little help from state lawmakers, do-not-call in Ohio will mean more than wishful thinking.