Companies Offer Consumers Placement on Do-Not-Call Lists

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Two companies launched services within days of one another that will take consumers' names off telemarketing lists. While one charges $20, the other requires consumers to provide their personal information so they can receive offers from its marketing partners.


Consumers can sign up for the service provided by Private Harbor, Doylestown, PA, at www.privateharbor.com, and be placed on the do-not-call lists of more than 1,500 firms that conduct telemarketing. The service takes three months to show results because of the time required to contact telemarketers, who need time to clean their lists, said founder Don Herr.


Herr promises that consumers will stop receiving almost all telemarketing calls. If the calls continue after a consumer gets on a DNC list, Private Harbor will be willing to support clients who want to take legal action, Herr said.


The exceptions are those exempted under the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule. They include nonprofits, market researchers and companies that have a pre-existing relationship with the consumer called.


Meanwhile, Screen4me.com, Atlanta, promises to put consumers on the do-not-solicit lists of more than 1,000 telemarketers, direct mailers and e-mail marketers at no cost. While direct mail and e-mail marketers are not required to keep the lists, most do so for privacy reasons as well as to save on postage-related expenses, said Rich Hutchinson, Screen4me's president and co-founder.


Those who sign up must provide their personal marketing information, which Screen4me will use to send them offers from its marketing partners. The company would not reveal which companies it has partnered with but expects to make an announcement soon.


The consumers get to choose the types of offers they want and will not receive any unsolicited offers, according to Screen4me.


"Consumers are tired of unsolicited phone calls, junk mail and e-mail, and direct marketers are tired of low returns on their marketing campaigns," Hutchinson said.


Private Harbor allows telemarketers to post on its Web site the offers they make to consumers by phone. Posting the offers will be free. However, Private Harbor will receive a commission on each sale.


American Teleservices Association spokesman Kevin Brosnahan said such advertising offers sound like an effort to force marketers to use the companies or else have no access to consumers who opt out.


"That generally scares me," Brosnahan said. "They are attempting to shut off a whole channel of advertising and are offering their own."


The ATA issued a warning last week regarding privacy services and said consumers can get off telemarketing lists for free. For example, the Direct Marketing Association keeps a DNC list - the Telephone Preference Service - for which consumers can sign up at no cost.


"Under the guise of consumer protection, a number of companies are reaping profits for services that cost consumers nothing," ATA executive director Jason Clawson said in the statement. "Consumers should be wary of services that charge a fee to remove their names from telemarketing lists."


By offering targeted marketing to their members, the privacy companies are giving consumers exactly what they pay to avoid, Clawson said.


"At least the industry-maintained lists aren't reharvested for further solicitation," he said.


Hutchinson said Screen4me is trying to help, not hinder, direct marketers. By partnering with his company - and paying a per-customer fee to market to its list - marketers can expect much higher response rates because everyone on the list has opted in.


Hutchinson, who spent seven years as a project leader at Boston Consulting Group, does not think his company can succeed if there is an industry backlash.


"The goal is to make the campaigns more effective for marketers," he said.


Herr said that while DMA members have the option of using the Telephone Preference Service list, they are not required to do so. But another free option consumers have is to request placement on a DNC list each time they receive a telemarketing call, Brosnahan said.


Herr would not speculate when asked if there would be an industry backlash against his company's efforts.


"It's too early in the cycle to give an answer on that," he said. "We want to make telemarketers our partners in this. We're not trying to reduce their effectiveness."
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