Telemarketing 101: State-by-state Immediate Disconnect & Permission to Continue Laws

Ringing PhoneTaken as a whole, people are pretty polite, especially senior citizens who were raised in an age in which manners were more firmly enforced than they are today. In the minds of many, politeness demands obtaining some level of permission to end a phone conversation from the person on the other end of the line. Unfortunately, that impulse to avoid being seen as rude is often exploited by aggressive salespeople who follow scripts that incorporate highly effective rebuttals and other techniques designed to keep consumers on the phone.

To protect their citizens from getting abused by their own manners, many states have enacted Immediate Disconnect and Permission to Continue Laws, both of which are designed to prohibit the ability of aggressive telemarketers to extend a conversation after a consumer indicates otherwise.

Here is a brief synopsis of these rules, which is by no means meant to be exclusive.

Arkansas: “If the person receiving the telephone call indicates that he or she does not want to hear about the charity, goods, or services, the caller shall not attempt to provide additional information during that conversation about the charity, goods, or services.” Arkansas Code § 4-99-201(a)(2).

Exemptions: Business to business calls.

Alaska: “A telephone seller must terminate the telephone solicitation and promptly disconnect the telephone line if the person receiving the call objects to the solicitation or indicates that the person is not interested in the product or service that is the subject of the solicitation.” Alaska Stat. § 45.63.045(b)

–  Exemptions: No established business relationship exemption, but standard commercial telemarketing exemptions apply, including calls from publicly traded companies, magazine publishers, utility companies, supervised financial institutions, etc.

Idaho: “It is an unlawful act for a telephone solicitor to: . . . Refuse to hang up and free the purchaser’s line immediately once requested to do so by the purchaser.” Idaho Code § 48-1003(1)(b)

– Exemptions: None 

Illinois: A live operator soliciting the sale of goods or services shall: …inquire at the beginning of the call whether the person called consents to the solicitation; and …if the person called requests to be taken off the contact list of the business organization, the operator must refrain from calling that person again and take all steps necessary to have that person’s name and telephone number removed from the contact records of the business or organization… “815 I.L.C.S. 413/15(b)(2-3)  “It is a violation of this Act to continue with a solicitation placed by a live operator without the consent of the called party.” 815 I.L.C.S. 415/25(b)

– Exemptions: (1)  Calls from telecommunications carriers, financial institutions, licensed insurers, licensed real estate agents, or any affiliate, subsidiary, employee or agent of any of the same; (2)  Calls made by an autodialer; (3) Calls from persons registered under Illinois Securities Law of 1953 or federal securities laws; (4) Calls from a licensed insurance company, its licensed employees or agents when performing acts within the scope of their licenses in relation to existing customers or policyholders, or employees of licensed agents.

Kansas: “Any telephone solicitor who makes an unsolicited consumer telephone call to a residential telephone number shall: …promptly discontinue the solicitation if the person being solicited gives a negative response at any time during the consumer telephone call.” K.S.A. 50-670(b)(4)

– Exemptions: (1) Calls made in response to a consumer’s request; (2) Calls made in connection with existing debt or contract; (3) Calls to persons with whom the solicitor has an existing business relationship; (4) Calls from newspaper publishers or their agents; and (5) Business-to-business telephone calls.

Kentucky: A caller making a telephone solicitation shall: …Within the first thirty seconds of the call…inquire whether the consumer is interested in listening to a sales presentation; and …Immediately discontinue the solicitation if the consumer responds in the negative.” K.R.S. § 367.46953(2-3).  A caller “shall inquire as to whether the person is eighteen (18) years of age or older” because it is a prohibited telephone solicitation act or practice to make a telephone solicitation to anyone under eighteen years of age. K.R.S. § 367.46955(8).

– Exemptions: Calls made (1) In response to an express request by consumer; (2) To debtors or parties to a contract in connection with the payment of an existing debt or contract; (3) To any person with whom the seller has a prior or existing business relationship; (4) By merchants if the merchant calls directly, does not sell or engage in telemarketing services, and the call is specifically directed to the person called only if the merchant maintains a business establishment in Kentucky; (5) Business-to-business; (6) By charitable organizations soliciting only donations.

Mississippi: Any telephone solicitor who makes an unsolicited telephonic sales call to a residential telephone number shall: …Discontinue the call immediately if at any time during the conversation the person being solicited expresses disinterest in continuing the call or sales presentation.” Mississippi Statute § 77-3-603(c)

– Exemptions: Established business relationships, and other standard commercial telemarketing exemptions including calls from publicly traded companies, magazine publishers, utility companies, supervised financial institutions, etc.

North Carolina: Any telephone solicitor who makes a telephone solicitation shall . . . if the telephone subscriber objects to the telephone solicitation, terminate the telephone solicitation and promptly disconnect from the telephone line of the person receiving the call.” N.C. Stat. § 75-102(c)(4). “A telephonic seller must inquire as to whether the prospective purchaser it is contacting is under 18 years of age. If the prospective purchaser purports to be under 18 years of age, the telephonic seller must discontinue the call immediately.” N.C. Stat. § 66-264.

– Exemptions: Business-to-business telephone calls.  No established business relationship exemption, but standard commercial telemarketing exemptions apply, including calls from publicly traded companies, magazine publishers, utility companies, supervised financial institutions, etc.

Oregon: A person who solicits potential customers by telephone…as a seller is in violation…unless the person: … Within thirty seconds after beginning the conversation: …Inquires whether the person being solicited is interested in listening to a sales presentation and immediately discontinues the solicitation if the person being solicited gives a negative response.” O.R.S. § 646.611(1)(d)

– Exemptions: None

Pennsylvania: “The following acts are prohibited: …Failing to end a telemarketing solicitation call when the consumer indicates he wants to end the call.” 73 Pennsylvania Statute § 2245(A)(8)

– Exemptions: Business-to-business calls.

South Dakota: “Any telemarketer who makes an unsolicited consumer telephone call to a residential telephone number shall: (1) Within thirty seconds after beginning the conversation, inquire whether the person being solicited is interested in listening to a sales presentation and immediately discontinue the solicitation if the person being solicited gives a negative response.” And (2) Immediately hang up the telephone any time during the solicitation that the consumer expresses a disinterest in the good or service offered.  South Dakota Statute § 37-30A-2(2)

– Exemptions: (1) Calls made in response to a consumer’s request; (2) Calls made in connection with existing debt or contract; (3) Calls to persons with whom the solicitor has an existing business relationship; (4) Calls from newspaper publishers or their agents; and (5) Business-to-business telephone calls.

Utah: “Any telephone solicitor who makes an unsolicited telephone call to a telephone number shall: …discontinue the solicitation if the person being solicited gives a negative response at any time during the telephone call; and…hang up the phone…” Utah Statute § 13-25a-103(5)(d-e)

– Exemptions: (1) Calls made in response to a consumer’s request; (2) Calls made in connection with existing debt or contract; (3) Calls to persons with whom the solicitor has an existing business relationship; (4) Calls made as required by law for a medical purpose.

Washington: “Within the first minute of the telephone call, a commercial telephone solicitor or salesperson shall: …Terminate the telephone call within ten seconds if the purchaser indicates he or she does not wish to continue the conversation.” R.C.W. 19.158.110(1)(b)

– Exemptions: Established business relationships if a previous purchase was made, and standard commercial telemarketing exemptions including calls from publicly-traded companies, magazine publishers, utility companies, supervised financial institutions, etc.

Sellers are well advised to consult an experienced marketing attorney when drafting scripts for any telemarketing campaign.



Author: Seth Heyman
Seth D. Heyman is a California attorney with extensive experience in advertising and marketing law, corporate law, contracts, governmental regulations, international business, and Internet law. He has counseled numerous successful companies, both public and private, and was responsible for regulatory compliance, contract management, corporate governance, and HR best practices for multiple organizations in many diverse industries, including marketing, telecommunications, energy, and technology development. He offers insight and guidance on federal and state direct mail, TV, radio, telemarketing, and Internet marketing laws, as well as online promotions, Internet privacy, data protection regulations, and similar matters.

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