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Tough New Federal Law Restricts On-Hold Messages, Music
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WASHINGTON - "Your call is very important to us. Please continue to hold. Thank you for your patience." Millions of times a day, callers are repeatedly assaulted with this message, or a variation of it. But with this new legislation, that abuse will come to an end.

"What we found is a huge groundswell of support for changing what happens when a caller is placed on hold," said Senator Karlynda Moos, of Indiana, "Callers don't like being put on hold, but they understand it. What they don't understand is why it has to be such a stressful experience."

An informal study conducted by Moos' staff, involving 2,000 calls to 250 different companies, revealed the following:

  • 90% thank the caller for their patience once every 20-30 seconds
  • 95% assure the caller that their call is important once every 20-30 seconds
  • 70% play what the staff considered "loud and/or unusual" music
  • 40% play no sound at all
  • 30% play no music, but sound a tone at regular intervals
Armed with those and other statistics, Moss went to the people and trumpeted the need for legislation governing "on hold" messages. The message was well received. "It's high time somebody did something about it," said Elmer Cook, a senior citizen often on hold with insurance companies and government agencies, "I wait in line at the bank, too. But they don't run up and down the line annoying everybody until they reach a teller."

Under the new law, on hold music would have to be at a volume that is 'less than or comparable to' conversational level. No message, once spoken to the caller, can be repeated during the same call. No repeating tones, beeps, or other noises will be permitted. And no message can be played after the user has been on hold for thirty seconds. "That way, once the caller has gotten used to being on hold, gotten into whatever music is playing, she won't be constantly jarred out of that comfort zone," said Moos. Penalties include per-occurrence fines, however the public will be barred from suing individually.

The bill still has to pass presidential veto, but that is largely considered a technicality on such a popular bill.
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