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Idahoans have an interesting relationship with the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call Registry. About a million of us have signed up for the list, which prohibits most phone solicitors from calling us and trying to sell us something.

When asked, most people will say they want to be on the list because they find telemarketing calls to be obtrusive and annoying.

Nonetheless, a lot of us were buying things from those people. It helped drive a significant percentage of sales for many businesses, and when the list was implemented, it cost those firms a lot of sales. They had to find other — usually less cost-effective — methods of marketing their goods and services.

If so many people hate telemarketers so much, why did they buy so much stuff from them? Good question.

Of course, as anyone can tell you during election season, there are exemptions to who is prohibited to call you. Political organizations, charities and survey conductors still can dial you up.

In Idaho, state law prohibits phone companies from calling existing customers to pitch them new services. But in today’s Internet era, that law faces a challenge.

House Bill 55, currently awaiting its third reading with a “pass” recommendation from the State Affairs Committee, would lift that restriction on phone companies — or as they’re more commonly known today, “telecommunication companies.” If it becomes law, those phone service providers would have the same right as any other kind of company you do business with to call you and pitch new products or services.

Why are telecoms making this request? Because phone providers also offer lucrative Internet sales, and if you have phone service with them, they’d love to be able to try and sell you high-speed Internet, also.

Idaho law should be consistent for all businesses. When some industries have special privileges — or, in this case, restrictions — it’s unfair to them and confusing to consumers. It’s a slippery slope, and there’s no legitimate reason for it.

Here’s how it should work. If you do business with a company — any company — you should have the option of whether you want them to call you to pitch new products. You have that option in Idaho — except in the case of telecommunication companies. Let’s lift that restriction.

If you don’t want companies you do business with to call you, you can notify them and they’ll be legally bound to honor that wish. That’s fair to both businesses and consumers, and telecommunications companies shouldn’t be exempted. House Bill 55 would do that.

* Our view is based on the majority opinions of the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial board. Members of the board are Publisher Matt Davison, Managing Editor Vickie Holbrook, Opinion Editor Phil Bridges and community members Maria Radovich, Mike Fuller, Kenton Lee, Rich Cartney, Megan Harrison and Kelly Gibbons.

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