ATA Demands Hearing on Proposed CA Dialer Ban

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The American Teleservices Association is appealing a decision by the California Public Utilities Commission to rule on a proposed zero-percent abandonment rate for predictive dialers without a public hearing.

ATA legislative affairs director Matt Mattingley said yesterday that his organization had filed a request for a public hearing as part of its written comments about the commission's proposal. The commission decided in February that public hearings were not necessary because proceedings concerning the proposed zero-percent abandonment rate were "quasi-legislative" in nature.

"What they've attempted to do is short-circuit the process," Mattingley said. "Their rationale, I thought, was exceptionally weak. It gives the appearance that they're trying to skate by this."

A law enacted last year in California ordered the state's Public Utilities Commission to determine what an acceptable abandonment rate for predictive dialers would be. The commission proposed that the rate should be zero.

Predictive dialers, which greatly increase the efficiency of outbound call centers, occasionally dial a number when no agents is available and then hang up, resulting in an abandoned or "dead air" call. But telemarketers argue that setting the abandonment rate to zero would negate any efficiencies gained through the use of predictive dialers and effectively ban their use.

A commission spokeswoman was not available for comment yesterday. The commission is scheduled to make a final ruling on the zero-percent abandonment rate in June.

In addition to the ATA, several members of the teleservices industry have submitted comments in favor of public hearings. Mattingley said he expected the combined appeals would lead the commission to change its stance.

"They're going to see that the industry objects strenuously to bypassing the public hearing part," he said. "I would say that they would then come out and schedule a date for the hearing."

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