Associations Vow to Unite on DNC Fees, Preemption

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WASHINGTON -- Officials from the American Teleservices Association and Direct Marketing Association said yesterday they would cooperate to fight a proposal to raise the cost of accessing the national no-call registry.


Meeting here at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill for the annual ATA Washington summit, the ATA and DMA also said they would work together to push the Federal Communications Commission to preempt state laws and create a single national standard for telemarketing regulations.


The Federal Trade Commission announced yesterday a Federal Register notice seeking comment on a proposal to increase the fee for access to the no-call registry a second time. The proposal would raise the per-area-code cost from $45 to $56 and the maximum payable fee for 280 area codes or more from $12,375 to $15,400.


Originally, the cost for access was $25 per area code and a maximum of $7,375. The current rates took effect Jan. 1.


The FTC has said the higher fees are needed because more telemarketers qualified for free access to the registry than expected, while fewer telemarketers than expected have paid. Telemarketers that access five area codes or fewer as well as nonprofit telemarketers are exempt from the fees.


However, the DMA estimates that as many as 20 million of the 88 million telephone numbers on the registry belong to cell phones, said Jim Conway, DMA vice president of government relations. Many of those cell phones were registered late last year when e-mails circulated among consumers falsely claiming that a directory of cell phone numbers soon would be published and made available to telemarketers.


Telemarketing to cell phones without express consent is already illegal, so it makes no sense to have them on the registry, Conway said. But telemarketers pay the cost of housing those numbers on the registry.


"The ATA and DMA are in lockstep on this issue, no question," he said. "This is one place where the new era of dialogue is fortuitous."


The DMA and ATA also are working on a petition to the FCC asking the agency to declare that interstate telemarketing calls are outside the jurisdiction of the states, said Mitch Roth, government affairs counsel to the ATA. Industry members have complained that complying with the multitude of state laws is difficult.


The FCC initially said it would consider state laws that contradict federal law on a case-by-case basis but is coming around to the fact that this process is too cumbersome and lengthy, Roth said. The DMA and ATA are sending the petition to the FCC together and are asking members to sign the petition as well, he said. The ATA hopes to send the petition to the FCC by the end of April.


Scott Hovanyetz covers telemarketing, production and printing and direct response TV marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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