Industry Regroups to Fight Flood of Pro-DNC Messages

The American Teleservices Association is trying to rally industry support in response to the more than 11,000 e-mails consumers have sent the Federal Trade Commission about its proposed national do-not-call list, most in support of a DNC list.

“It is critical that we counter that one-sided impression being presented to the FTC,” the ATA said in the e-mail.

The ATA sent e-mails over the past two weeks urging telemarketing executives to submit comments to the FTC and to encourage their employees to do so.

“We’ve sort of left the field to the other side,” said Matt Mattingley, legislative affairs director at the ATA. “We don’t want the FTC to conclude that there is not significant support for our position because the pro-telemarketing side has been silent.”

Many consumer e-mails not only support the plan, but slam the teleservices industry. One posting said, “I generally will not buy anything through the mail or over the phone, so solicitations do nothing but make me angry. If the list comes to pass put me on the top!”

Another suggested that consumers opt in to receive telemarketing calls. “Place all telephones in the registry, then ask owners to remove their names if they want to receive telemarketing calls,” he said.

The FTC is accepting written comments on a national DNC list and other proposed changes to the Telemarketing Sales Rule until March 29. Comments may be e-mailed to [email protected] While the written comment phase is important, it’s only one step in the process, said Lou Mastria, spokesman at the Direct Marketing Association. Public workshops in Washington are scheduled for June 5-7, and hearings will likely follow, with the process expected to last until the end of the year.

“We plan to be active through the workshops and hearings,” Mastria said. “The FTC knows who we are.”

Industry associations are preparing to submit written responses to the FTC’s proposed changes. These will be the first official salvo fired by the industry in the growing conflict over the future of outbound telemarketing in the United States.

Efforts to increase telemarketing regulation seem to run counter to President Bush’s economic stimulus initiatives, Mattingley said.

Even as the FTC’s regulatory reforms are under way, lawmakers are crafting their own DNC legislation. U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-CT, submitted a bill earlier this month that would create broader DNC limitations than even the FTC is proposing.

Johnson’s proposed Telemarketing Relief Act not only would direct the FTC but other government agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission, to create DNC lists so businesses not regulated by the FTC also would be affected by DNC restrictions. n

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