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ATA Urges Proactive Efforts to Protect Inbound

MIAMI BEACH, FL — The teleservices industry must move to create new standards and prevent the government from doing to inbound what it did to outbound, outgoing American Teleservices Association chairwoman Lisa DeFalco said yesterday.

Speaking at the ATA 2004 Convention & Expo, DeFalco discussed the measures the ATA plans in order to head off a federal regulatory blitz on inbound teleservices. She formally debuted the ATA's plan to start a self-regulatory organization along with other industry groups, the government and consumer groups.

“It's time to put consumers to the forefront,” she said. “I think in the past we haven't conveyed that message.”

The industry's failure to deal with rising consumer irritation with telemarketing led to the national no-call list, DeFalco said. The same could still happen to inbound, a sector of the industry to which many teleservices agencies moved after the no-call list reduced demand for outbound services.

“We want to rise to the challenge to address these issues before we get there,” she said.

The ATA would launch and promote the self-regulatory organization, or SRO, DeFalco said. But to preserve its credibility, it would be run independently of the ATA, she said. An independent academic institution would administer the SRO. The ATA has talked with several, including one that offers undergraduate and graduate programs in direct marketing.

Government officials also would have to be involved to ensure the SRO's effectiveness, DeFalco said. The ATA has met with officials from the Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission and the National Association of Attorneys General. The idea met with initial skepticism from government officials and consumer groups, she said. However, overall feedback has been positive.

“When we first approached them, one group actually laughed,” she said. “But they got over the laughter.”

Eileen Harrington, associate director of marketing practices with the FTC's bureau of consumer protection, also spoke at the convention. She said the FTC has been supportive of other independent SROs.

“It's a model that deserves looking at,” she said.

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