How to Stop Do-Not-Call Madness

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Fourteen states have established by law do-not-call registries. In most cases, consumers in each of these states pay a nominal fee to be placed on the list, and companies must purchase periodic list updates from the state in order to purge calling files.


In the past, states such as California and Rhode Island have realized the constitutional questions surrounding an attempt to regulate interstate commerce and have rejected this type of misguided legislation.


Everyone who works in the call center industry should oppose further state DNC list legislation. This cookie-cutter type of legislation is unnecessary and wastes valuable state resources.


Of course, I do not encourage calling people who are not interested in receiving calls. That just raises the cost of doing business. Aside from wasting your time and resources, it also damages the industry's reputation.


I do, however, believe in a person's right to make informed purchasing decisions.


Consumers already have two nationwide, no-cost options for limiting unwanted telephone calls. Individuals who do not want to receive calls may register for free with the Direct Marketing Association's Telephone Preference Service. This option provides consumers with nearly the same service as a state DNC list at no cost to the consumer or the state.


In addition to the DMA list option, the telemarketing industry is regulated by both the Federal Communications Commission rules implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Federal Trade Commission's Telemarketing Sales Rule. One key provision in each of these regulations is the requirement that companies keep specific DNC lists of individuals who have requested not to receive any more telemarketing calls from that company.


Consumers who do not want to receive calls simply need to make their preference known to the telemarketer at the outset of the call. On the other hand, consumers who want to receive calls or want to receive only certain types of calls are protected by the existing federal rule.


It gives people the freedom to determine which calls they want to receive and to prohibit calls they do not want to receive.


The TSR also allows a state attorney general's office to go after a fraudulent business that calls from outside the state, victimizing consumers in that state. This cross-border enforcement strategy creates a national blanket of protection for consumers. Unscrupulous businesses no longer can escape prosecution by simply moving up their operations to another state.


There is also a question about the success of the state DNC laws already in place. Georgia was one of the first states to enact such a law. Yet at last check, less than 4 percent of the state's population had requested to be placed on the list.


In addition, most of these statutes contain lengthy lists of exemptions for nonprofits, political organizations and existing business relationships. Consumers may become upset to find out they have paid to be placed on a state list thinking they would be rid of all telemarketing calls when, in fact, many groups will continue to call.


A recent piece of legislation has supported the stance that there are constitutional questions surrounding a state's attempt to regulate interstate commerce. On March 22, the Kentucky Senate adopted Resolution 162 urging the U.S. Congress to expand state jurisdiction over interstate calls, stating that a "lack of a clear grant of authority to regulate interstate calls is buttressed by the legislative history for the TCPA, which clearly states that federal legislation was needed because states do not have jurisdiction over interstate calls."


This clear admission by a state legislature adds even more weight to the argument that creating state DNC lists is an unnecessary waste of limited state resources.


The state legislatures of Connecticut and Maine, however, should be applauded for the action they took last year. These two states essentially mandated the use of the DMA's Telephone Preference Service as the official do-not-call list for their states. Credible companies already subscribe to this service.


Codifying the TPS will not add new regulations, nor will it require additional resources to be spent administering yet another list.


Everyone who reaps the benefits of this dynamic industry should take a public stand against the growing number of DNC list bills appearing in state legislatures nationwide. Call your state representatives and let them know why these bills are wasteful and damaging. These individuals should be open to hearing about the number of jobs your company has created and the economic impact you have had on their region. Telemarketing professionals everywhere must recognize the importance of these state bills.


If you do not answer the call by maintaining consumers' rights on a state-by-state basis, you may not recognize this industry at all in a few short years.
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