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FTC: No Campaign to Promote National DNC List

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission does not plan to mount an advertising campaign to promote the proposed national do-not-call list if one is created, an FTC official told telemarketers yesterday.

Speaking at the American Teleservices Association's annual legislative conference, held here at the Grand Hyatt hotel, FTC marketing practices division director Eileen Harrington said it is not the government's job to promote registration to the national DNC list.

“We're agnostic about whether people should sign up or not,” she said.

In her talk, Harrington defended the FTC's effort to modify the Telephone Sales Rule, which has some telemarketers concerned that the federal government aims to regulate their industry out of existence. That is not the commission's goal, she said.

However, the FTC is responding to legitimate concerns that the current version of the rule is an ineffective way to protect consumer privacy, Harrington said. As currently written, the rule lets consumers request that individual companies not call them but provides no way for consumers to block all telemarketing calls at once.

One primary consumer complaint is the tendency of telemarketing agents to hang up the instant a consumer begins to request that a company cease calling him, Harrington said. She said she experienced this particular shortcoming of the current rule herself.

“For me, personally, it is not working,” she said. “I think there are a lot of people like me.”

Harrington said the FTC had received about 42,000 comments involving the proposed national DNC list, the vast majority in favor of its creation. Comments against the list came mostly from teleservices employees and appeared to be form letters, while most of the comments in favor appeared to be individually written, she said.

Some in the audience questioned the FTC's methods in gathering consumer comment. One telemarketer noted that the large number of comments may result from e-mail comments being allowed, while another said that a large number of negative comments were to be expected because satisfied customers tend to be less vocal.

The comments will not be the only factor the FTC considers when it makes its ruling on the national DNC list, expected this fall, Harrington said. She encouraged telemarketers to submit hard evidence in support of their arguments.

“It's not a plebiscite,” she said. “We're not doing rulemaking by vote.”

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