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ATA Members Fear Potential DMA-FTC Do-Not-Call Deal

WASHINGTON — Some members of the American Teleservices Association are worried that the Direct Marketing Association might try to broker a deal with the Federal Trade Commission on the proposed national do-not-call list.

Jason Clawson, executive director of the ATA, raised the concern at the ATA's annual legislative conference, held here yesterday at the Grand Hyatt hotel. Instead of creating its own DNC list, the FTC could require telemarketers to use the DMA's Telephone Preference Service, which it has maintained since the mid-1980s.

Such a deal might be tempting because it likely would involve the FTC paying the DMA for the service, Clawson said. But Louis Mastria, spokesman at the DMA, in an interview yesterday denied that any deal with the FTC was on the table.

“Our stance remains the same,” Mastria said. “The government is getting involved in an area it should not be.”

Mastria said he did not wish to respond directly to Clawson's comment because he was not at the ATA's meeting. However, he said it is important for the industry to maintain unity in this time of regulatory and public pressure.

“We'd like to think that all the elements of the teleservices industry are coming together,” Mastria said. “The industry absolutely needs to unify right now.”

Clawson said he was not trying to discredit the DMA and that he considered the association as one of the telemarketing industry's “best friends.” He also said he had not talked with anyone at the DMA about a possible deal.

But there is cause for concern because the ATA is the only organization solely dedicated to the telemarketing industry, Clawson said. The DMA has members from other sectors of the direct marketing industry that it must represent as well.

Approximately 160 people attended the ATA legislative conference, about 30 percent more than last year, according to the ATA. Attendance has risen steadily over the years, reflecting an increase in government regulatory activities, Clawson said.

The ATA aims to raise $500,000 over the next four months to fund its legislative efforts. The money is needed because of heightened state legislative activity in addition to the FTC's proposed changes to the Telemarketing Sales Rule, Clawson said.

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