5 Questions for Eileen Harrington

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Eileen Harrington, associate director of marketing practices at the Federal Trade Commission's bureau of consumer protection, was one of the movers and shakers behind the launch of the national no-call registry. She also is set to face the industry at this week's American Teleservices Association annual meeting in Miami Beach, where she will be a keynote speaker.DM News asked Harrington for her thoughts on the no-call list's first anniversary.


You were instrumental in helping develop the do-not-call list and making it a reality. What's your assessment of the list one year after its implementation?


The entire program has been very successful. Consumers now have a choice, and more than 64 million phone numbers have been registered, which tells me that this is a welcome choice. Everyone I know of who registered their phone number says they receive very few telemarketing calls. Industry compliance appears to be good. The careful legal work done in drafting the rules has been upheld by the courts. The technical aspects of the system are working well. We really couldn't have asked for better results.


What is your take on the industry's court challenge to the no-call list? Were you upset about the back-and-forth federal court rulings that initially delayed the launch?


In drafting the rules, we had the same concerns that are at the heart of the industry's challenge: Is there a First Amendment problem? Do we have the authority to write and implement DNC rules? We did this legal work very carefully, and when the commission issued the rules, we were confident of our legal position and always expected to prevail. The FTC is not in the business of acting without proper authority or in violation of the First Amendment, and we would not do so, no matter how important the desired result. We weren't surprised by the challenges, nor were we upset.


There's a new chairwoman at the FTC, Deborah Majoras. Is the agency following Timothy Muris' tack of aggressively seeking new rulemakings and pursuing a privacy agenda, or will it look to hold off on new rules and enforce what it already has?


I think it's a mischaracterization of Tim Muris' tenure to say he was aggressively seeking new rulemakings. Tim outlined a thoughtful privacy agenda focused on practices that cause real harm -- economic or annoyance -- to consumers. The only rulemaking that he advocated was in the DNC area. Congress directed the FTC to issue rules to implement the CAN-SPAM Act, and we're busy doing that now. There was no additional rulemaking on Tim's agenda, and I have not heard Majoras advocate additional rulemaking, other than that required by Congress.


In a year, the FTC has filed one complaint against a telemarketer solely on the grounds of a DNC violation. What can we expect on the DNC enforcement front for the coming year?


You can expect DNC compliance and DNC enforcement to remain as high priorities.


You used to say that telemarketing calls to your home helped you keep tabs on the industry. Have telemarketers finally taken you off their calling lists?


Oh, yes. Like millions and millions of my fellow citizens, I receive few if any telemarketing calls.


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