Though telemarketing, spam and postal reform issues have faded from focus among members of Congress since Sept. 11, these issues will be brought up again when they convene for the second session of the 107th Congress on Jan. 23.
One bill affecting marketers is the Telemarketing Intrusive Practices Act of 2001, which was introduced by Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-CT, on Dec. 20 — the last day before Congress recessed for the year. It would create a national list of consumers who do not wish to receive unsolicited telemarketing calls and further reduce the hours that telemarketers could call consumers.
At the time, Dodd said the legislation would require the Federal Trade Commission to establish a “no sales solicitation calls” listing of consumers who do not want to receive unsolicited calls.
“Although certain types of calls would be exempt, including calls from any company with whom a consumer currently does business, nonprofits looking for donations, pollsters and those publishing telephone directories, a violation of the no call list would be deemed unfair or deceptive trade practice and the telemarketers could be fined,” Dodd said.
Jim Conway, vice president of government relations at the Direct Marketing Association, said this bill is potentially the most damaging to marketers.
“One of the reasons we are particularly concerned is because [the bill] would not pre-empt states do-not-call laws, so it would, in essence, create a 51st list, really,” he said.
Conway said he expects the Senate to hold hearings on the bill this quarter.
The DMA also is watching anti-spam legislation introduced last year, including H.R. 718, the Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail Act of 2001, and H.R. 1017, the Anti-Spamming Act of 2001. The two bills have moved to the House Rules Committee.
Another bill, the CAN SPAM Act of 2001, was introduced by Sen. Conrad Burns, R-MT, in March 2001. The bill prohibits senders of unsolicited commercial electronic mail from disguising the source of their messages and gives consumers the choice to cease receiving a sender's unsolicited commercial e-mail messages. This bill has been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
Another bill, H.R. 3129 — the Customs Border Security Act of 2001 — could affect shipments by direct marketers. Introduced in October, the bill would give law enforcement the authority to open and inspect mail leaving the United States without first obtaining a warrant. Officials at the U.S. Postal Service say the bill could harm privacy, impair postal services and hurt the USPS financially.
Meanwhile, direct marketers are still holding out for some sort of postal reform bill. In October, Rep. John McHugh, R-NY, who serves on the House Committee on Government Reform, circulated a draft version of postal reform legislation. The objective of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act is to get the postal service operating in a more businesslike manner. According to the bill, the agency must respond to market considerations and provide clear incentives for postal management and the USPS as an institution.
The bill incorporates the legislative framework of an earlier one that was approved twice by the former postal service subcommittee but died in committee last year.
“I'm hoping that within the next couple of weeks there will be a bill introduced on postal reform on the House side,” said Ed Gleiman, the former Postal Rate Commission chairman who is spearheading the DMA's postal reform initiative.
On the Senate side, Gleiman said there may be some hearings — and possibly legislation — surrounding postal reform, especially since senators asked postmaster general John E. Potter to come up with a transformation plan by March 31 that would address the challenges facing the USPS in the 21st century.
“It is conceivable that someone could put together a legislative package that reflects some of what is in the plan,” Gleiman said.