Do Not Call Gets a New Lease on Life
The National Do Not Call Registry will keep blocking telemarketing calls long into the future, thanks to recently passed legislation in Congress. When the registry began in 2003, it was slated to expire after five years, requiring consumers to re-register beginning in October 2008. The House and Senate approved the Do Not Call Improvement Act this month to make the list permanent, and the bill awaits signing by President Bush.
Politicians pitched the move as a way to keep phones from ringing with "unwanted, commercial solicitation calls" (in the words of bill's sponsor, Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota). However, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), many members of which would be making those calls, also praised the legislation for measures to purge the list of unused numbers and for protecting "consumer choice." While the advent of Do Not Call has caused overall revenue of telemarketers to decline, it was welcomed by some in the industry for eliminating wasted calls made to consumers who don't want to receive them.
"The public has voiced its strong support for the registry, and DMA wants to help consumers make informed decisions on how they can be contacted by businesses selling valuable products and services," said Jerry Cerasale, DMA's senior vice president of government affairs, in a press release.
Since its inception, more than 145 million numbers have been added to the registry, which is administered by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC originally instituted the five-year expiration date as a means of keeping the list accurate, but it has proven to be so successful that allowing it to expire was a potential headache for all involved. The FTC says the registry "has enjoyed unprecedented popularity," and according to a 2006 poll, 76 percent of Americans reported adding their number to the list.
The teleservices industry has estimated that up to half the numbers on the list are unusable or redundant due to other laws governing the use of phone numbers. Rather than allow the list to lapse, the new legislation includes a provision directing the FTC to remove invalid numbers within nine months. That won the approval of the DMA, which said it would result in a more accurate and usable list for marketers.
"DMA members support eliminating the current rule's five-year consumer registration period for the National Do Not Call Registry as part of their commitment to consumer choice," Cerasale said in the release. "Adding the new accuracy and reporting requirement on the FTC makes this possible."
A separate bill capping the fees marketers are required to pay to access the list at $14,850 was also praised by the DMA, since the fee has risen each year since the list's inception. Since the registry has been in place, the FTC has initiated 27 cases against companies for violating the Do Not Call List, and issued more $18 million in penalties.
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