John Gustavson sounded more like a Federal Trade Commission official than the leader of a marketing trade group in an interview with DM News last week in which he declared his support for a national do-not-call list for Canadian consumers.
Gustavson, president of the Canadian Marketing Association, said U.S. telemarketers erred in fighting a national list a decade ago, before more than two dozen states adopted no-call registries of their own. He also blamed the outbound telemarketing industry for bringing its present troubles upon itself.
“People are just fed up with telemarketers,” he said. “They're fed up with the annoyance and fed up with not being able to get off telemarketing lists.”
Gustavson said he has “no sympathy” for telemarketers, even though his association's membership includes some well-recognized names in the telemarketing industry. The list includes ICT Group and Ron Weber & Associates as well as Teleperformance Canada and Marusa Marketing, both subsidiaries of international call center giant SR.Teleperformance.
The CMA must protect the interests of the Canadian marketing industry as a whole, not just those of a few telemarketers, Gustavson said. Other organizations, such as the American Teleservices Association, are available to telemarketers if they seek a trade group more narrowly tailored to their interests.
Gustavson expressed his views at a September meeting of a local CMA chapter in Ottawa.
Gustavson acknowledged to DM News that his opinions are unpopular with some direct marketers — he joked that he might “get lynched” at the Direct Marketing Association's annual convention in San Francisco this month — but noted that the CMA has been public with its support for a national DNC list for about a year. No CMA members have threatened to leave the group over its position, he said.
Like the DMA's Telephone Preference Service, the CMA maintains its own no-call registry, which CMA members are required to use. However, he said the CMA's list is not effective because abusive telemarketers usually aren't members.
His position is in direct conflict with the DMA, which regularly argues that the existence of the TPS negates the need for a federal no-call registry. Gustavson said that he respects the DMA but that the evidence against industry self-regulation is clear.
“If it worked, the public would not be screaming bloody blue murder over telemarketing,” he said.
In response, DMA spokesman Louis Mastria defended the TPS, noting that it is used by 80 percent of the telemarketing industry in the United States. DMA studies show that a majority of the 5 million people registered for the TPS do not register for existing state DNC lists, indicating that the TPS has been effective, Mastria said.
“Canada comes from a completely different kind of historical/political background,” he said. “In the U.S., we have a much stronger free-market historical background. I think it's very much to our advantage.”
In Gustavson's vision for a national DNC list, no companies would be exempt, not even charities, though all would still be allowed to call existing customers. He also supports consumers paying a fee for registration and suggested that $5 for three years was reasonable.
Gustavson favors limited calling hours, which exist in the United States but not in Canada, and rules limiting abandonment rates to 5 percent. A 1 percent maximum abandonment rate, which will be enacted in California next year, would be impossible to meet, he said.
The Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission sought comment from members of the marketing industry and consumer public about creating a national no-call registry in 2001. Since the end of last year, the CRTC has been “dead silent” on the issue, Gustavson said.
The agency is wrestling over whether it has legislative authority to create a DNC list, unlike the FTC and Federal Communications Commission in the United States, which already have mandates from Congress. However, the CMA expects the commission to state its position “any time now,” said Gustavson, who predicted the telemarketing industry would survive increased regulation.
“We can have a very healthy telemarketing industry based on inbound calls and contacts with existing customers, and with a limited role for customer acquisition,” he said.