Wait Is Nearly Over for FCC Telemarketing Rules

MIAMI — Telemarketers have less than a week to wait to learn what the Federal Communications Commission plans for their industry, K. Dane Snowden, chief of the FCC's consumer and governmental affairs bureau, said Friday.

Snowden, who spoke at the Direct Marketing Association's Teleservices Conference 2003 here, said that on June 19 the FCC placed the telemarketing issue on its agenda for its meeting June 26. The FCC is considering proposed revisions to its telemarketing rules, including rules concerning the national no-call registry.

The review of FCC telemarketing rules coincides with changes to the Federal Trade Commission's Telemarketing Sales Rule, which include the launch of a national no-call registry in July. However, the FTC has no jurisdiction over certain areas of the telemarketing industry, such as telecommunications, banking and intrastate calling, and some have speculated the FCC will move to fill in the gaps.

If the FCC has decided what new telemarketing rules it would enact, Snowden wasn't telling. After the issue went on the FCC's meeting agenda, Snowden became bound by federal guidelines against him giving or even hearing comments on the matter.

“I no longer can discuss this issue with any outside parties,” Snowden said. “I cannot give you details about what the commission is going to do in six days.”

However, Snowden did say the FCC has been trying to balance consumer privacy concerns and the burden that privacy regulations place on marketers. Snowden, a former marketing executive at Sony, said he learned the value of telemarketing when he was in charge of generating leads for the company.

“I learned that telemarketing is a legitimate business process,” he said. “Since joining the commission, I also have learned that there are those who do not follow our rules.”

Jerry Cerasale, DMA senior vice president of government affairs, said that when the DMA scheduled Snowden to speak, it had expected the FCC to issue its rules June 19 and hoped Snowden would be able to speak freely on June 20. As it turned out, June 20 was the worst day the DMA could have picked for Snowden's talk, Cerasale said.

However, during the conference Cerasale gave some insight of his own about the FCC's upcoming rule changes. At a session on new government regulations, Cerasale speculated that the FCC would not create a new national no-call registry but instead would use the registry about to be launched by the FTC.

He also said he expected that the FCC would force states to merge their existing no-call registries with the national list, but would not interfere with state regulation of intrastate calls. The FTC has said it would ask states to voluntarily harmonize their lists with the national registry but has no power to force them to do so.

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