ATA Attorney: Time to Refresh Anti-DNC Rhetoric

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NEW ORLEANS -- Telemarketers have argued for years that government do-not-call lists would cost jobs and drive them out of business. That has yet to happen, and the industry's pleas are falling on regulators' deaf ears, said C. Tyler Prochnow, state legal counsel for the American Teleservices Association.


Prochnow, also a DM News columnist, told telemarketers at the ATA's 19th Annual Conference & Exhibition here yesterday that new arguments are needed for the industry's lobbying to succeed. Because telemarketers have experienced growth even as state DNC lists have proliferated, their arguments that such regulations would bring financial ruin upon them seem like Chicken Little.


"Somewhere along the line, the argument that DNC lists cost jobs lost credibility," he said.


Nowhere was that more evident than in June, when Federal Trade Commission official Eileen Harrington told telemarketers at a Direct Marketing Association Teleservices Council meeting that they had little credibility, Prochnow said.


"It was quite a statement from somebody who dictates the policy that affects this industry," he said. "That's an attitude from which the government has looked at us."


The industry cannot afford further use of "sky is falling" rhetoric, Prochnow said. Instead, the message to lawmakers should be that telemarketers grew despite government regulation by adapting and that they could have done better.


They also should focus on issues that can lessen the effect of DNC lists, Prochnow said. An important one is whether regulators charge consumers a fee to register for a DNC list, he said.


Fees lower the rate of consumer registration, Prochnow said. In Georgia, which touted its DNC list as a model for the nation, a $5 fee has kept registration to about 200,000 out of 7 million residents. In Missouri, where registration is free and the state attorney general sets up booths at sporting events to encourage people to register, 2 million consumers have signed up, he said.


The FTC has proposed consumers pay no fee for registration to the national DNC list.


State DNC lists are popular with lawmakers and regulators because they are a source of political capital, Prochnow said. In Missouri, the DNC list is officially dubbed "Attorney General Jay Nixon's Do-Not-Call List."


"Please don't lose sight of the fact that things are coming in the next six months, eight months that will be very important to the industry," Prochnow said. "It's not going to end."


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