FCC Won’t ‘Carve Out’ No-Call Exemptions

The Federal Communications Commission declined yesterday to exempt specific industries from the national no-call list but issued a clarification to the existing-customer exemption to strike a balance between business and privacy interests.

At its monthly meeting in Washington, the FCC said it would not “carve out” exemptions to the no-call list for certain industries.

The FCC also ruled that contracts companies have with consumers signify an existing business relationship with those consumers. Thus, companies can continue to call consumers with whom they have contracts under the list’s existing business relationship exemption. The ruling should be significant for industries such as banking, lending and insurance.

“We are not reconsidering rules establishing the do-not-call registry,” said K. Dane Snowden, chief of the FCC’s consumer and governmental affairs bureau. “Our task is to ensure the proper balance between personal privacy and legitimate business interests.”

Several industry groups had asked to be exempted from national telemarketing rules passed in 2003. For example, 53 state and regional newspaper associations argued that the no-call list inhibited them in distributing their products, which receive full free-speech protection under the First Amendment.

In another case, DialAmerica Marketing, Mahwah, NJ, asked that the FCC exempt its 27-year-old charity magazine subscription program in which it sold magazines on behalf of charities and gave them 12.5 percent of the proceeds. Though the FCC did not specifically deny any exemption request, it made clear that no DNC exemptions other than those already existing would be granted.

A major issue regarding the national list as yet unresolved by the FCC is whether the agency will preempt state telemarketing laws that are out of sync with federal law. Petitions are before the FCC to override laws in Florida, Indiana, New Jersey and Wisconsin.

The FCC will not act on the issue for the moment, Snowden said at the hearing. The commission will consider the preemption question in the coming months, he said.

Other issues ruled on by the FCC:

* Companies must abide by company-specific do-not-call requests from consumers for five years from the date of the request.

* Debt collectors are not required to give their state-registered name in prerecorded messages if doing so would conflict with federal or state law.

* Telecommunications carriers, which are required to notify customers of their right to register for the no-call list, may satisfy this requirement by including notices in customer bills.

* Radio and television broadcasters may send prerecorded messages to consumers to advertise programming so long as that programming is offered free. Prerecorded telemarketing calls are otherwise banned except to existing customers.

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