NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – If you have noticed an increase in the number of robo-calls and calls from telemarketers you have been receiving, you are not alone, said Sen. Charles Schumer.

The New York Democrat unveiled new legislation on Sunday that would increase the fines for companies that violate the National Do Not Call Registry.

Sen. Schumer said the current fines are so low that companies are willing to pay the penalty in exchange for illegally contacting thousands of homes.

“There’s new technology that allows these solicitors to do automated robo-calls. They can just push a button and a million calls go out. And second, the penalties are so low that now they regard it as a cost of doing business,” Schumer told WCBS 880.

Schumer pointed to data from the Federal Trade Commission showing the number of complaints filed over telemarketing calls has risen from 65,000 in October 2010 to 212,000 in April 2012.

Under his new legislation, violating the do not call laws would be upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony and telemarketers would be fined $20,000 per violation every time a cell phone or home phone number already on the do not call list was dialed.

EXTRA: National Do Not Call Registry

“A family has the right to get through dinner without constantly being interrupted by phone calls from mortgage companies, credit card firms or even worse, scammers,” said Schumer in a news release.

Punishment for the worst offenders could also carry up to 10 years in prison, if Schumer’s measure becomes law.

“Congress has enacted the laws to fight back against these nuisances, but the companies are using new tricks, and now we must enact stiffer penalties to make sure the laws have teeth so the regulators can bring the rogue firms to heel,” Schumer said.

“They have found one other technique which makes it even worse which we also outlaw in our legislation. They put up a false number on the phone – maybe your sister-in-law or a good friend of yours – so you answer the phone,” Schumer told WCBS 880.

Sen. Schumer has also called on the FTC, the Federal Communications Commission and telephone companies to develop technology to prevent caller-ID spoofing and to identify illegal robo-calls before they get to consumers.

Residents told CBS 2’s Dick Brennan that they would support legislation that helped cut down on calls from telemarketers.

“You’re trying to get dinner ready, they’re all under foot homework, trying to get dinner on the table, then you have these phone calls and it is an interruption,” said Magda Vonderlinden.

The National Do Not Call Registry was implemented in 2003 after a law went into effect allowing individuals to limit the number of telemarketing calls they receive.

There are currently more than 209 million phone numbers in the registry, according to the FTC.

Have you noticed an increase in telemarketer phone calls? Share your thoughts below…


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