Comment Period on State Telemarketing Laws Gets Late Start

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The Federal Communications Commission belatedly began accepting comments yesterday on petitions from telemarketers asking the agency to exert its jurisdiction over state telemarketing laws they say interfere with their business.


Petitions filed jointly by the American Teleservices Association, Direct Marketing Association and other trade groups and companies appeared in the Federal Register after a delay of more than a month. Publication in the Federal Register is required for the comment period on petitions to begin.


DMA and ATA officials have urged members to submit comments on this issue, which they say is crucial to ensuring uniform nationwide regulations for telemarketing in the future. State attorneys general have opposed such efforts in the past and some, including Attorney General Steve Carter of Indiana, have organized letter-writing campaigns by residents.


In their joint petition, the DMA, ATA and 31 companies asked the FCC to exert authority over all state telemarketing laws. Also, several groups and companies asked the FCC to preempt laws in specific states, including Florida, Indiana, New Jersey and Wisconsin.


Yesterday, Carter again called for his state's citizens to write the FCC opposing the application of federal telemarketing law over state law. Carter also started a Web site, SaveDoNotCall.com, to motivate residents to contact the FCC.


"More than 50 mayors, the Indiana congressional delegation and the Indiana General Assembly have stood up for the do-not-call law," Carter said in a statement. "But it's still essential that the public come forward and express its desire to the FCC that the law isn't broken and shouldn't be watered down."


Deadlines for filing comments on the petitions are July 29 for initial comments and Aug. 18 for reply comments, an FCC spokeswoman said. Comments can be filed electronically at gullfoss2.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/upload_v2.cgi under proceeding 02-278.


Originally, the FCC had announced the petitions on May 13, meaning that 34 business days passed before the petitions appeared in the Federal Register. In contrast, when the FCC announced its proposed rulemaking for the national no-call list on Sept. 18, 2002, the notice appeared in the Federal Register on Oct. 8, 2002, after 15 business days.


The delay resulted from a new policy set by the Office of the Secretary of the FCC, the FCC spokeswoman said. The policy limits publications of FCC notices in the Federal Register to once a week, on Wednesdays, except in emergencies.


The FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, which is handling the petitions, submitted them for publication together but was forced to wait, the spokeswoman said. A limited number of items can be published in the Federal Register at once, and the FCC had other items that took precedence, she said.


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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