ATA Warns of Regulatory Storms to Come

MIAMI BEACH, FL — Federal and state governments will continue to chip away at exemptions to no-call lists and strengthen other rules affecting the teleservices industry in 2005, the American Teleservices Association said yesterday.

In a session at the ATA 2004 Convention & Expo, ATA CEO Tim Searcy and legislative counsel Mitch Roth said regulators had their eye on the existing business relationship exemption, business-to-business telemarketing and offshore outsourcing. The EBR exemption is particularly important to telemarketers because it lets companies continue calling their customer base despite the no-call list.

States have looked at limiting the EBR, and federal lawmakers originally wanted to do away with it entirely but were persuaded to keep it by the Federal Trade Commission, Searcy said. The ATA is looking to lobby for legislation that would codify the EBR in law and protect it from the whims of Congress and regulators.

BTB calling is of interest to regulators because of the argument that businesses deserve as much protection as consumers, Searcy said. Another trouble spot is individuals who do business on their home phone but register their home numbers for the national no-call list.

“It's hard for us to disentangle ourselves from that,” he said. “There's no national registry that says you have to designate yourself as a consumer or business or both.”

Offshore call centers continue to draw attention at the state and federal levels, Searcy said. Lawmakers have voiced concerns about data being transferred from the United States to call centers abroad, and bills have called for phone reps in overseas call centers to disclose their location.

Regulators also are discussing “parity” rules that would require companies to give sales and service calls the same service level, Searcy said. Regulators are asking why companies answer sales calls immediately but require customers who call for service issues to wait.

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