• July 1, 2003
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

A Call To End Them All

Millions of fed-up consumers are hung up on hanging up on intrusive sales calls. That's why more than 10 million phone numbers have been registered in the first four days following the launch of the national Do Not Call Registry last Friday. "Consumer response has been enthusiastic," commented Federal Trade Commission Chairman Timothy J. Muris in a prepared statement. Roughly 85 percent of the registrations occurred online (primarily at www.donotcall.gov). Last Friday evening saw the busiest sustained traffic, when an average of 158 telephone numbers were entered into the system per second, the FTC said in the statement. On Friday, 7 million telephone numbers were logged into the system, whereas on Saturday and Sunday the numbers dropped to 4.6 million and 2 million, respectively. The free service is expected to block roughly 80 percent of telemarketing calls, according to the FTC. Other calls, however, such as those from political organizations, solicitation calls on behalf of charities, and calls to conduct surveys are not covered by the National Registry requirements, the FTC said. Additionally, companies that have an existing relationship with consumers may call for up to 18 months after the last purchase, payment or delivery. The FTC expects as many as 60 million phone numbers (of 166 million residential phone numbers in the United States) to be registered in the first year. The FTC will begin enforcing the list on October 1, 2003. After October 1, the FTC, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the states will require telemarketers to access the registry every three months to delete matching numbers, according to a previous FTC statement. Telemarketers who call a number on the list could be fined up to $11,000 per call. If a consumer's phone number has been in the registry for three months and the consumer still receives telemarketing calls, the FTC suggests the consumer file a complaint at the Web site or call 1-888-382-1222. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) applauds most of the government's efforts. "The DMA supports a national do-not-call program that will make it easy for both consumers who want to opt out of receiving telephone solicitations, and for marketers who need to clean their lists," said H. Robert Wientzen, president and CEO at The DMA, in response to the FTC statement. "We are pleased that the FCC has taken this decisive action towards that end." "The DMA is concerned, however, about the possibility that marketers will have to pay the high cost of purchasing the FTC list, which is over $7,000 annually," the DMA response stated. Nevertheless, $7,000 for a national registry is far less than paying each state separately for its own do-not-call registry. To comply with the current state Do Not Call laws telemarketing firms calling into participating states are required to pay an estimated $10,139 in annual fees to obtain each state registry, Muris said. "With more than half of the states requiring telemarketers to buy their no-call lists, and more states considering legislation to do the same, telemarketers ultimately will have to purchase dozens of separate lists at an ever-increasing cost. A national system that also provides free access to the states is a more efficient approach."
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