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FCC Official Warns About Predictive Dialers, Other Telemarketing Practices

WASHINGTON — Predictive dialing and other telemarketing practices are being monitored closely this year by the Federal Communications Commission, commissioner Kathleen Abernathy told attendees at the 2002 Annual Government Affairs Conference here.

“I know that there may be an increase in productivity on the part of predictive dialers,” Abernathy said, “but we are getting a whole lot of complaints at the FCC about predictive dialers from consumers that are annoyed and frustrated by them, and we want you to be aware of that.”

Abernathy told attendees that to stave off any regulations against them, they may want to find a way to enjoy the benefits and efficiency of predictive dialers while reducing hang-up calls.

But she made it clear the FCC has no current plans to regulate predictive dialers.

“I believe that education and best practices adopted by the industry can go a long way before eliminating [practices such as predictive dialers],” she said.

Abernathy also said that the FCC is intensifying the actions of its enforcement bureau. For example, it is enforcing slamming violations closely. In the past year, she said, the commission has levied more than $13 million in fines against companies engaging in slamming.

The FCC also is increasing enforcement of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. In 2001, the commission got more than 16,500 consumer inquiries about the act and more than 3,500 informal complaints about TCPA-related issues, including unsolicited faxes.

Abernathy also said the FCC is monitoring the Federal Trade Commission's national do-not-call list proposal and will participate in the FTC workshop on the issue in June. She did not make a clear statement for or against the proposal, however, saying instead that the FCC looked into a similar proposal in the past “and we didn't do it.”

Abernathy said that the FCC realized the difficulty in implementing and managing such a proposal. However, as the FTC wants to explore the concept, she said, the FCC is obligated to provide all of the information it receives from consumers about the concept as well as information about why the agency didn't implement it.

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