A crowd of citizens, legislators and city and county officials attended a town hall meeting in Meridian Wednesday, one of a series the Mississippi Public Service Commission is conducting statewide, to educate the public about a new law that will allow citizens to protect themselves against telemarketers.
"We're here to talk about telemarketing or, hopefully, soon to be the lack of telemarketing," says Central District Public Service Commissioner, Nielsen Cochran.
The new law, which is effective July 1, will create a list of people who do not want to be called by telemarketers.
"You contact us. We put you on a list," said Cochran. "We sell the list to telemarketers. It does not cost you a penny. You didn't cause the problem. You didn't generate the frustrations that intrude your homes by these telemarketers so why should you pay for anything? And you won't."
Telemarketers who violate the law can be fined $5,000 for each offense. PSC chairman Michael Callahan said the principal victims of telemarketers are senior citizens and low income families.
"Our process is, if they never call you and they never get a hold of you, then they can't cheat you out of money,” says Callahan. "That's what we're trying to do, to control and help the situation."
Callahan said the commission has recovered $180,000 in the past for people who were scammed on the telephone.
"I feel confident that once we pop a couple of these companies a couple times for illegal telemarketing, that'll get their attention as other states have done and that will drastically cut back the number of calls,"
It's too early to sign up now. The "don't call me" computer system is not yet in place. It may not be available until June.