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FTC: 107 Million Numbers on DNC Registry

More than 107 million telephone numbers were registered with the national do-not-call registry by the end of fiscal year 2005, according to a Federal Trade Commission report to Congress this month.

Compliance with the registry provisions of the amended Telemarketing Sales Rule is high, the report said, and consumers are getting fewer unwanted telemarketing calls.

Americans have embraced the registry. In the four days after its launch June 27, 2003, 10 million numbers were registered. As of Sept. 30, 2003, nearly 52 million telephone numbers were on it. At the end of FY 2005 (Sept. 30), the registry contained 107,440,316 numbers.

The report also highlighted results from a Harris Interactive survey, which found that 76 percent of U.S. adults had registered their main phone numbers with the registry as of December 2005, compared with 57 percent in 2004. And 92 percent who placed their numbers on the registry reported getting fewer telemarketing calls.

Also, as of fiscal 2005, the FTC had received just 1.2 million complaints, representing about 1 percent of total numbers on the registry at the time.

“This is indicative of both a high degree of compliance by telemarketers and a meaningful reduction in unwanted telephone calls for consumers who have registered their telephone numbers,” the report said.

The number of organizations accessing the registry is decreasing, however. In 2005, 6,794 groups paid a total of $18 million to access the registry, the report said. In 2004, 7,734 organizations paid $14 million to do so. Since the registry’s inception, 11,919 unique entities have paid fees for access, and total fees paid by all entities through the end of FY 2005 are $37.5 million.

During FY 2005, based on a review of complaints in its database and other investigative activities, the FTC filed six cases alleging violations of the registry, the report said, raising the total to 14.

As of Sept. 30, 2005, the FTC had reached settlements in 10 of the 14 cases, obtaining injunctive relief in all 10. In four of these cases, the court ordered civil penalties exceeding $800,000. In the other six, the court ordered redress and/or disengagement for other violations, totaling more than $4.7 million. Telemarketers who violate the registry are subject to up to $11,000 in fines per violation.

The registry costs telemarketers $56 per area code up to a maximum $15,400. The first five area codes are free. In 2005, 58,023 organizations accessed the registry for five or fewer area codes, the report said.

Meanwhile, an FTC official said last week that the agency is actively enforcing the registry provisions of the TSR.

“We have stepped up our enforcement, and we will continue to step up our enforcement of do not call over the next few years,” said Thomas Cohn, senior assistant regional director of the FTC’s Northeast Region.

Addressing an American Teleservices Association New York Metro Chapter meeting July 25 in the Great Moments Room at Yankee Stadium, he said that “every one of our seven regional offices as well as our headquarters has currently active non-public investigations in this area.”

And though business-to-business telemarketers are not covered under the TSR, they are covered by the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair and deceptive business practices, he said. The FTC is keeping track of this.

Mr. Cohn cited a case being investigated in his office involving a BTB telemarketer accused of pitching Web services to thousands of small businesses and then charging them for services they never authorized.

“While we couldn’t charge them under the TSR, we still prosecuted them for violating the FTC Act,” he said, “and I made a point of writing into their preliminary injunction against them and into their final order that is being investigated right now provisions that mirrored the Telemarketing Sales Rule provisions. So, basically, the order is going to cover them as if they violated the [TSR].”

Mr. Cohn also said that the FTC likely would institute the proposed rule Sept. 1 to raise fees for each area code from $56 to $62 and the maximum fee for all 280 area codes to $17,050.

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