DNC Fees Might Rise Again

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Marketers who are struggling to comply with federal and state do-not-call laws were hit again this week when the Federal Trade Commission proposed a 10.7 percent increase in the fees charged to telemarketers to access the national DNC registry.

The registry, in effect since October 2003, has let millions of Americans express their preferences about receiving telephone solicitations. The FTC has consistently reported a high rate of compliance among marketers. However, the Direct Marketing Association warns that complying with the law is increasingly difficult because of high costs, inefficient lists and a patchwork of varying state requirements.

The FTC proposed this week raising the fee to access the registry from $56 to $62 for each area code of data accessed. The maximum annual amount charged to entities accessing 280 area codes or more would climb from $15,400 to $17,050.

"In less than three years since the registry came into existence, the costs for marketers to access the lists have risen by 148 percent -- far beyond the rate of inflation," said Jerry Cerasale, DMA senior vice president for government affairs.

Along with the fee to access the national registry, marketers also pay fees to access separate registries in 13 states, Mr. Cerasale noted.

"In effect, legitimate companies are being taxed multiple times for their willingness to comply with the law," he said.

The DMA continues to push for federal preemption of the no-call list and other regulations governing telephone and fax marketing. Two years ago, the association formally petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to use preemptive power to regulate interstate telemarketing. The DMA believes that the Communications Act of 1934, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 and the Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005 all confer upon the FCC exclusive jurisdiction over interstate telemarketing.

The DMA also has expressed concerns about the large percentage of unnecessary numbers on the federal registry, which make that list more difficult and expensive to maintain. The registry governs business-to-consumer calls to land-based telephone numbers. However, the association estimates that half of the list's 122 million numbers are for business, fax or cellular telephones.

"Business-to-business and fax calls are governed by a different set of rules, and the presence of those numbers on the list is an unnecessary expense and complication," Mr. Cerasale said. "The same goes for cellular numbers, since the 1991 [Telephone Consumer Protection Act] makes it illegal to solicit wireless phone numbers without clear permission from the consumer."

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