FTC Wants to Raise Fee for No-Call Registry Access

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The Federal Trade Commission yesterday announced a proposal to increase the fee telemarketers pay to access the national no-call list by $20 per area code annually.

Fewer telemarketers are paying to download the no-call list than expected, so higher fees are needed to cover the estimated $18 million cost of maintaining the list, the FTC said. Increased fees could intensify cost pressure on telemarketers already worried that higher compliance costs due to the no-call list are hurting business.

Under the FTC proposal, the annual fee for no-call registry access would rise from $25 to $45 per year, and from $15 to $25 for access during the second half of the year only. The cap on fees paid by telemarketers downloading 300 area codes or more would increase from $7,375 to $12,375.

The FTC had expected 10,000 telemarketers to pay for accessing the registry. But in a Federal Register notice of the proposal published yesterday, the FTC said that fewer than 6,000 of about 52,000 telemarketers that have accessed the list have been paying.

The others were not required to pay the fees. These included 45,500 that downloaded five or fewer area codes, which the FTC has made free to protect small businesses, and 900 entities that were exempt from the no-call list, such as nonprofits, but were given the option of accessing it at no cost.

Free registry access for telemarketers that download five area codes or fewer will continue, the FTC said. In explaining this decision, the FTC said that making these telemarketers pay would hurt small businesses and that collecting fees from more than 45,000 additional telemarketers would increase administrative costs.

The proposal is unlikely to sit well with telemarketers. That the FTC wants to increase the fees despite not having filed a single enforcement action under the no-call list shows that the agency didn't know what it was doing when it launched the list, said Tim Searcy, executive director of the American Teleservices Association.

The FTC rushed into launching the list without considering the potential costs or the effect it would have on business, Searcy said. His association is appealing to the Supreme Court to declare the no-call list unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds.

"Why do they need more money?" Searcy asked. "It sounds like they need more money because they aren't doing their jobs. Where I come from, you don't give people more money for failure."

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