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The Sacramento Bee
Sacramento Bee Staff

Californians often are frustrated in attempts to determine which businesses are selling their personal information to junk-mail firms, according to a study released Wednesday by the California Public Interest Research Group.

Pedro Morillas, CalPIRG spokesman, said consumer protections need to be strengthened, but he did not propose specific legislation.

"Consumers' information is their own," Morillas said. "They have a right to protect it and to know who is profiting from it."

The new CalPIRG study tested industry response to a state law, implemented in January 2005, that requires companies to respond to consumers' requests for information if they share personal information for marketing purposes.

CalPIRG compiled a list of 21 California companies and asked 52 individuals to contact one of them for such data-sharing records. Results released Wednesday found that:

• Thirty-one of the 52 participants received responses within the required 30 days, and one received a later response. Twenty participants received no response at all.

• Of the 32 responses, eight consumers received detals of the company's information sharing; 10 were told the company does not share information; and 14 received other responses - such as requests that the consumer visit a Web site or call a toll-free number.

Companies' failure to respond to requests for information can frustrate consumers, but is not necessarily illegal, Morillas noted.

State law requires compliance only by businesses that share personal information for direct marketing purposes.

CalPIRG does not know how many of the 20 firms that failed to respond to its survey were legally obligated to do so.

"While the current law is a good first step toward educating consumers about how their information is shared, these problems the report uncovered indicate that more needs to be done," Morillas said.

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