DNC Registry faces its 5-year milestone

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When I got married, everyone talked to me about the "big countdown." It seems like we are always tracking time as if an event was a terminus that we could not see beyond. The National Do Not Call Registry's fifth anniversary next October (that's right, one year from now) appears to be a date which the media is already eagerly anticipating.

I have already received calls from prestigious radio stations, a national business magazine, and trade publications asking, "What happens when the registry expires for the first people to register five years ago?"

The easy answer would be to say, "I don't know, and we are not worried about it." However, this is not the truth, and in that spirit, I think we need to keep a few things in mind.

First, the DNC Registry was created out of consumer frustration and political expedience. Neither of these causes has abated over time. The success in curbing marketing efforts has only added fuel to the belief that DNC was a good idea.

In fact, the list continues to grow, and its success has led to state and federal officials asking whether this kind of program should be expanded to other media such as direct mail and e-mail.

Second, the industry has survived and in many ways thrived in spite of the DNC Registry. Foolish pundits would say that DNC has increased response rates and decreased frustration which has made the channel more effective. No, the reason the industry has continued to succeed is the measurable nature of the medium, and the ingenuity of its users. The channel has always been effective, but now it is more effective to a smaller pool of prospects.

Third, policymakers are not done with us yet. The anniversary of the DNC Registry gives the FTC and FCC as well as Congress ample opportunity to revise the rulemaking with additional regulations.

Some of the regulations under consideration would more narrowly define the affiliate relationship definition. Additionally, although inbound has been a target for consumer protection in the past, there is a new focus on avoiding consumer annoyance by addressing "press æ0' to get a live operator" and the lack of queue announcements on some IVR applications.

Finally, we can spend the next year ignoring what is going on, and the potential for significant change again, or we can mobilize. The American Teleservices Association has put the final touches on the first set of standards for the ATA Self Regulatory Organization (ATA SRO), and will be announcing its company accreditation program in Scottsdale at our Annual Convention, September 30 - October 3. The ATA SRO is an effort to head off overly burdensome regulations by providing policymakers with the proper assurance that we are managing the issues which create consumer frustration. Initial response from the commissions has been excellent, and we are hopeful that ongoing dialogue will continue to be productive.

For the next year, the industry will be under the spotlight of a watchful public and media asking whether we can be trusted to manage ourselves. The DNC Registry renewal can be a platform for us to demonstrate our positive intentions, or a continuation of a misperception that we are insensitive to the underlying consumer issues. The ATA asks its members and other interested parties to consider the cost carefully, and join in the effort to make the next year the springboard to a better relationship with the government and consumers through self regulation.

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