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Californians swamp anti-telemarketer site

Web surfers are flocking to a new site that lets residents in the state add their names and numbers to a national "do not call" list being compiled by the FTC.

Californians flocked to a state-run Web site launched Monday that allows them to make their phone numbers off-limits to telemarketers.

As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 180,000 people have registered on the the site, administered by the office of Calif. Attorney General Bill Lockyer, said Hallye Jordan, a spokeswoman for Lockyer. The state is using the site to let California residents add their names and numbers to a national "do not call" list being compiled by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Unsolicited telemarketers that call verboten numbers will be subject to a fine of up to $11,000 per violation starting in October under the Amended Telemarketing Sales Rule.

People are apparently eager for relief from annoying telephone pitchmen. Traffic was so heavy on the site Tuesday that some people couldn't reach it at times, Jordan said.

Lockyer's office expects as many as 5 million of the state's approximately 35 million residents will eventually add their names to the list, Jordan said. Californians will be able to register on the site until early July, at which time Lockyer's office will begin directing them to an FTC Web site and toll-free number, which are not yet available.

More than two-dozen other states have launched similar programs independently of the FTC, Jordan said. California decided to coordinate with the federal program to save money and reduce confusion for consumers, she said.

Under the national law, telemarketing firms will be required to purchase the national list and will have 30 days to remove names from their call sheets. They must purchase updated lists every three months. For consumers, the national service is free and their names stay on the list for five years. Some states charge consumers fees for their no-call services.