Thursday, October 2, 2003

Local agents and brokers say they will observe no-call list

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Local companies that rely on cold calls to reach new customers warn that the government's do-not-call list could force them to drastically change how they conduct business.

By e-mail:

By phone: (888) CALL-FCC (225-5322) voice or (888) TELL-FCC (835-5322) TTY.

By mail: Federal Communications Commission
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

Your complaint should include:

Name, address, and daytime telephone number.

The telephone number involved with the complaint.

As much specific information as possible, including the identity of the telemarketer or company contacting you, the date on which you put your number on the national do-not-call registry or made a company-specific do-not-call request, and the date(s) of any subsequent telemarketing call(s) from that telemarketer or company.

Real estate agents and mortgage brokers are among the sales pros girding for a hit from the no-call law that went into effect Wednesday. More than 50 million Americans have registered a home or cell-phone number on the list.

While the law faces a legal battle waged by telemarketers, several local companies already have changed procedures and instructed sales agents to avoid calls to phone numbers on the list. Companies that call numbers on the list could face thousands of dollars in fines daily

Agents such as Dave Guenther of Sibcy Cline Inc. Realtors reluctantly agree to follow the new rule.

"This list is going to make me spend more gas money," Guenther said.

A favorite Guenther strategy: Find and call property owners who are struggling to sell a house on their own. Some of these owners who become frustrated by the slow pace of marketing a home often agree to hire a real estate agent, Guenther said.

"Very rarely do you get somebody upset with you calling," he said.

The new rule will prompt agents to knock on doors or mail solicitations to potential customers.

Mortgage brokers, too, have adjusted. Many loan officers call homeowners to pitch refinancing or purchase loans.

"I'd say that's how the bulk of the business in this industry is done," said Mike Vinson, president of Integrity Mortgage, which operates two Greater Cincinnati locations.

But Vinson doesn't expect the no-call rule to change how his 23 loan officers pursue business in Cincinnati. Integrity lands most customers through referrals or advertising, he said. And even if a person signs up for the list, a firm that has conducted business with that person over the past year and a half still can call.

Some stockbrokers said they already had a do-not-call list in place as required by regulations from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Still, the Blue Ash branch of A.G. Edwards has switched and will comply with the federal do-not-call list even if it is not immediately enforced.

Branch manager Rork Williams said that his company had signed up for a service that provides numbers that are both on and off the list.

"We feel pretty comfortable that we will be in compliance," Williams said. "We're acting as if the list will go" into effect.

He said that inexperienced brokers typically cold call to build a client list, but said that some experienced brokers use the practice as well.

Williams could not say how many calls the list would stop out of his office, however.

Staff writer James Pilcher contributed. E-mail

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