FTC in Do-Not-Call List Talks

The Federal Trade Commission discussed establishing a national do-not-call list as part of its review of the Telemarketing Sales Rule this week.

The agency was hosting the first of a series of public forums to review the TSR, which it does every five years. A spokeswoman said the issue of do-not-call lists was of particular concern because of the number of consumer complaints the FTC has received. The current TSR requires individual companies to maintain lists of people who do not want that company to call them, and the Direct Marketing Association maintains a list of people who do not want to be called at all, which its members are required to use.

Several states already have do-not-call lists, which marketers must purchase and match against their own prospect lists to delete the names of people who have requested not to be called at all by marketers.

The DMA, which represented the industry at the hearing, said it urged the FTC commissioners to review the reach of the existing federal laws before they recommend the establishment of a national do-not-call list.

“As part of the overall review process, the FTC needs to look at the source of complaints to determine whether expanding the existing rule to cover those businesses currently outside the rule may resolve consumer concerns,” said Robert Sherman, legal counsel for the DMA, in a prepared statement.

Businesses outside the coverage of the TSR include insurance companies, banks, securities firms, political organizations, nonprofits and intrastate telemarketers.

Allen Hile, assistant director of the FTC’s division of marketing practices, said the FTC was discussing the feasibility of a national do-not-call rule only because so many states had adopted such measures.

“In the interest of getting a full discussion, there’s hardly any way you could not look at it,” he said. “But it would be the wrong spin to say that this is step one toward establishing a national do-not-call list.”

Much of the discussion this week centered on the practicality of businesses obtaining do-not-call lists and updating their own marketing lists on a timely basis, according to one attendee.

Other matters discussed at the forum include the use of technology to block caller-identification services that consumers use to screen calls. Because some technologies such as predictive dialers do not allow caller ID systems to identify the number that placed the call, the DMA said it opposes the use of technologies that are designed specifically to mask the identity of the caller.

The DMA also said it would support an educational effort to increase customer awareness of the TSR.

The FTC informed the DMA’s privacy committee in September about the TSR review, and the DMA issued a warning to its members at that time. The FTC told the DMA then that consumers had complained both about not being removed from companies’ do-not-call lists quickly enough or not being removed at all.

In its warning notice, the DMA reminded its members that violations of the opt-out provision could result in the issuance of a $10,000 civil penalty per violation and that consumers can sue telemarketers who call repeatedly after requesting to be placed on a do-not-call list.

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