FILE: Telemarketing

(The Center Square) — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has signed legislation, inspired by a "Seinfeld" episode, setting new restrictions on telemarketers in response to nationwide concerns about phone-based scams.

The new law requires telemarketers to identify themselves within the first 30 seconds of a call, including their name, the name and telephone number of the person on whose behalf the call is being made, and the purpose of the call. Under the new rules, violators could be charged with disorderly conduct, along with other sanctions.

The restrictions, unanimously approved by the state Legislature with bipartisan support, also ban unsolicited telemarketing calls between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. local time. 

The bill exempts telemarketing sales calls when a customer contacts the company by phone or website and "affirmatively" requests a follow-up telemarketing sales call or other contact.

Murphy said the proposal was inspired by an episode of the NBC hit show Seinfeld, where Jerry Seinfeld jokingly asks a telemarketer to give him their home number so he can call them later.

The telemarketer says, “Uh- well, I’m sorry we’re not allowed to do that.”

"Oh, I guess you don't want people calling you at home," Seinfeld said.

"No," the telemarketer replied.  

"Well, now you know how I feel," Seinfeld said, before hanging up.

Murphy said the scene highlights how telemarketers can "call at any time, under any pretense, and without any kind of guidelines or consequences" and "makes light of a situation many New Jerseyans face every day, sometimes multiple times a day." 

"I am proud to sign the ‘Seinfeld Bill’ and to establish much-needed transparency in telemarketing," he said in a statement.

One of the bill's primary sponsors, state Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Washington, said joking aside the legislation is aimed at protecting New Jersey residents from an "overwhelming" number of phone scams targeting seniors and others. 

"This new law will clearly alert seniors that a telemarketer is seeking to sell them something and the law will provide them with a level of protection," Moriarty said in a statement. "It’s important to do what we can to protect our seniors from falling victim to scams."