DMA offers support for Caller ID bill

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In testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on June 21, the Direct Marketing Association voiced support for the Truth in Caller ID Act (S. 704).

The bill, introduced by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) in February, makes it unlawful to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller ID information.

"DMA fully supports the efforts of the Committee to enact legislation prohibiting caller ID spoofing," said Jerry Cerasale, DMA's senior vice president for government affairs, to the committee. "Spoofing is a malicious practice that undermines caller ID as a useful verification device, and when used for illegitimate purposes, can cause harm to both consumers and businesses."

DMA has long recognized caller ID as an important enhancer to two-way communication between people making and receiving calls," said Mr. Cerasale. "Caller ID providers consumers with choice and control over their telephone. It alerts a consumer as to the identity of a caller and allows the consumer to choose whether to answer a call from a marketer offering a product or service of interest."

Mr. Cerasale agreed with the committee that when used for illegitimate purposes, Caller ID has a harmful effect on both consumers and legitimate businesses, and reminded legislators of the role that DMA has played in setting standards for responsible communications and fostering consumer choice.

In 2004, Mr. Cerasale pointed out, DMA adopted Caller-ID requirements as part of the Association's Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice, adherence to which is a requirement of DMA membership. DMA requires its members, including nonprofits and other groups, to transmit caller ID information. Specifically, he noted, when DMA members make marketing calls, they are required to transmit the name of the seller and the telephone number by which a called party can call back during normal business hours to ask questions or request not to receive future calls.

Under the Guidelines, DMA members must not transmit a false name or telephone number.

Commenting on the specifics of S. 704, Mr. Cerasale suggested that the scope of conduct covered by the legislation should be narrowed to restrict only such acts committed with "intent to defraud or cause harm."

"While the practice of spoofing to defraud or cause harm to a person is unacceptable, there are legitimate reasons for transmitting caller ID information that is different from the calling party's information,"

Mr. Cerasale told the Senators. "Without such an intent standard, telemarketers that substitute a customer service telephone number for call-back purposes could be covered by the bill."

In addition, Mr. Cerasale noted that there are times when the caller ID information transmitted from the telemarketer to a telecommunications carrier is not the same as the information provided by the carrier to the call recipient. In such cases, he said, the "intent" standard will also ensure that a telemarketer is only responsible for accurately providing caller ID information to the carrier and not for incorrect transmission by the carrier.

Noting that this approach was included in similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, Mr. Cerasale concluded that "tying the act of transmitting misleading caller ID information with an intent standard appropriately identifies the offending act while ensuring that businesses are not liable for simple mistakes or other instances where changing the caller ID information is appropriate."

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