DMA: FCC May Merge State, National Lists

MIAMI — The Federal Communications Commission may try to merge existing state no-call registries with the national list, Jerry Cerasale, the Direct Marketing Association's senior vice president of government affairs, said yesterday.

Speaking at the DMA Teleservices Conference at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa here, Cerasale said the FCC had the power to require states to merge their lists with the national list and likely would use it, though states probably would be allowed to keep authority over intrastate calls. Such an effort by the FCC likely would be welcomed by telemarketers but opposed by state attorneys general, who have jealously guarded the state no-call lists many were instrumental in creating.

The Federal Trade Commission, which starts a national no-call list this summer, has said that it will try to harmonize state lists with the national registry but would not try to pre-empt state no-call efforts.

The FCC is expected to announce changes to its own telemarketing rules June 26, Cerasale said.

The FCC is unlikely to create a separate no-call list of its own, he said, but probably will enforce the FTC list.

The FCC's no-call rules apply to a broader range of industries than the FTC's rules, including banks, brokers and telecommunications carriers. These industries presently are immune to the FTC's no-call registry.

While interstate telemarketing calls will be under federal regulations, which exempt only nonprofit, political and existing-business-relationship calls, telemarketing calls made within a state will be subject to the rules of the state where the calls occur, Cerasale said. State laws often exempt more kinds of companies, such as newspapers and real estate brokers, than the federal rules.

That means telemarketing service agencies may be forced to open call centers or contract with existing call centers within a state to accommodate certain clients and avoid the federal no-call rules, Cerasale said.

K. Dane Snowden, chief of the FCC's consumer and government affairs bureau, is to address the conference this morning.

The DMA's federal court challenge to the FTC's national no-call list is presently before a judge in Oklahoma. The association doesn't know when the judge will rule but expects to lose at the lower court level and will decide later whether to appeal, Cerasale said.

Regardless of the suit, the FTC is expected to continue its efforts to launch a national registry, which will become available to telemarketers in September, Cerasale said. Enforcement is scheduled to begin Oct. 1.

“We believe the federal government will try to make examples and enforce this very quickly,” he said. “You need to be ready to roll Oct. 1.”

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