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Tauzin to Support DNC List, Wants Some Oversight

After expressing reservations, a House committee yesterday affirmed its commitment to provide funding for the Federal Trade Commission's national no-call registry. The project is now expected to remain on schedule.

Debate during a congressional briefing yesterday led some to think that the registry could be delayed until 2004.

“We have been quite clear in our support for a do-not-call list,” said an aide to Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-LA, who heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “Our commitment is to get it up and running this year.”

FTC chairman Timothy Muris told lawmakers attending the briefing that they must approve upfront funding for a national telemarketing DNC registry during the current federal appropriations cycle. Congress is expected to pass an appropriations bill by the end of this month, and the committee is exploring funding the list on a one- or two-year trial basis.

Tauzin had indicated reluctance to move quickly on funding in a letter to Muris last month.

The FTC used most of last year to issue its revisions to the Telemarketing Sales Rule, of which the national DNC list is a part, proposing the changes in January 2002 and issuing the final rule just before Christmas. An FTC spokeswoman said the commission needed the time to digest 64,000 public comments, brief the commissioners who oversee the agency and determine a cost estimate.

Now the FTC's plan is to get $16 million from Congress within the next few weeks to fund creation of the national DNC list as well as congressional authorization to levy the telemarketer fees that will be used to reimburse the money.

At the briefing, Tauzin asked about a possible legal challenge from the telemarketing industry that could delay implementation regardless of whether the committee approved funding. Regulators should realize the effect the national no-call rules will have on the telemarketing industry as well, he said.

“It's a two-edged sword,” Tauzin said of the FTC's proposal. “This $650 billion industry isn't going to go away because people don't want to be called.”

Lawmakers also had questions about how the FTC's DNC plan will mesh with the Federal Communications Commission's impending no-call rules and how it will integrate with existing state DNC lists.

So far, Muris has offered only an assurance that state authorities will voluntarily integrate their lists with the national registry, said Bill Raney, an attorney with Copilevitz & Canter LLC, Kansas City, MO.

Though Tauzin was not alone in voicing concerns, others on the committee issued support for the FTC. Rep. Edward Markey, D-MA, urged the committee not to put the national DNC list on hold for a year and told Muris he had a “runaway smash hit” on his hands.

“We need not bring the entire do-not-call database effort to an abrupt halt while we consider these issues,” Markey said.

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