No Action Anytime Soon on Telemarketing Bill

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A bill that would impose new restrictions on telemarketers, including preventing them from calling consumers between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., probably will not be given a high priority during this session of Congress, a legislative spokesman said this week.

The bill, H.R. 3180, which was introduced in October, seeks to amend the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act. In addition to prohibiting calls from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. - the so-called dinner hour - it also requires telemarketers to notify consumers that they have the right to be placed on either the Direct Marketing Association's do-not-call list or a state do-not-call list. The bill states that telemarketers must obtain such lists "on a regular basis" and reconcile them against their own lists.

It also prohibits telemarketers from blocking the identity of telephone calls to evade detection by consumers' Caller ID systems.

Rep. William J. Tauzin, R-LA, who heads the House commerce subcommittee on telecommunications, trade and consumer protection, has several other bills in the subcommittee that he considers to be more pressing, according to spokesman Ken Johnson.

The bill also has not been receiving much support from other members of Congress, according to direct marketers, who said the effort to ban calls during the dinner hour simply wasn't realistic given today's dual-income households and modern lifestyles.

"I never thought the 5-to-7 time period was sacred anymore anyway," said Wayne Gattinella, president at Memberworks North America, Stamford, CT, which uses telemarketing to offer various products and services. "These aren't the days of 'Ozzie and Harriet' anymore, where people come home from work and eat dinner at 5 p.m."

Some of the items in the bill, including the proposal for stricter use of do-not-call lists by marketers, also were discussed at the Federal Trade Commission's first meeting about possible changes in the Telemarketing Sales Rule earlier this month. Meetings to discuss the TSR will be scheduled periodically throughout the year.

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