FTC delays enforcement on prerecorded messages

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The Federal Trade Commission will extend beyond Jan. 2 its policy of not bringing enforcement against sellers and telemarketers delivering prerecorded messages until the completion of an agency proceeding covering rules for prerecorded calls.

The FTC granted a petitioned request from the Direct Marketing Association and other groups.

"This is good news for the many marketers who rely on prerecorded messages for communication with customers," said Jerry Cerasale, DMA senior vice president of government affairs. The FTC announcement "means that customers can continue to conduct ongoing campaigns without fear of punishment until the issue is resolved."

In 2003, the FTC amended the Telephone Sales Rule to limit the proportion of calls to consumers that telemarketers may "abandon" without risking FTC enforcement. In an abandoned call, the consumer answers but finds no one on the line. The FTC amended the TSR to prohibit call abandonment but let telemarketers play a prerecorded message when a consumer answers in a maximum of 3 percent of calls answered by consumers in person.

However, the FTC said in October that it:
• Denied a petition to let telemarketers deliver prerecorded messages to consumers with whom the seller has an established business relationship.

• Proposed making explicit a prohibition against telemarketing calls delivering prerecorded messages without express written consent of the consumer.

• Would end its policy, as of Jan. 2, of not bringing enforcement against companies using prerecorded messages in accordance with the 2003 rules.

The DMA and other groups petitioned the FTC to delay ending the enforcement policy until after a final determination on the proposed prohibition.

"We petitioned for this change because the FTC was going to start enforcement while reviewing a rule," Mr. Cerasale said. "We wanted them to at least wait until they reviewed the rule to make any changes."

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