Release Date: February 6, 2002
At a hearing of the Kentucky Senate Judiciary Committee in Frankfort today, a Federal Trade Commission representative testified about the FTC's recent proposal to amend its Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) to establish a centralized, national "do-not-call" registry. Eileen Harrington, Director of Marketing Practices in the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, explained that the proposal, if adopted by the FTC, would enable consumers to eliminate most telemarketing calls simply by making one call to the FTC.
Harrington began the Commission's testimony by providing historical background on the FTC's adoption of the TSR as directed by Congress in the Telemarketing Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act (Telemarketing Act). The Telemarketing Act also required the FTC to conduct a five-year regulatory review of the TSR. As part of this review process, Harrington said, in January 2000 the FTC conducted a public forum on the TSR's current company-specific "do-not-call" provision that allows each telemarketing company to call a consumer one time, but prohibits subsequent calls to any consumer who asks not to be called again.
According to the testimony, information brought out during the "do-not-call" forum, and subsequent stages of the TSR regulatory review, indicated that "the existing company-specific approach is inadequate to enable customers to control telemarketing calls received in their homes." Under the current framework, "every company gets 'one bite of the apple' with the consumer, who must repeat the do-not-call request to each company whose telemarketers call him or her." The testimony stated that "despite the TSR's do-not-call provision, there is widespread consumer frustration over unwanted telephone solicitations." To address this frustration, Harrington noted that a number of states are considering legislation to establish statewide do-not-call lists, in addition to the 20 states that have already enacted such statutes.
According to the testimony, "taking all the record evidence into account, the Commission has proposed to modify the TSR, among other things, by establishing a national do-not-call registry that would enable consumers to stop most telemarketing calls by making just one phone call to the FTC. Telemarketers would be required to 'scrub' their lists, removing all consumers who have placed themselves on the FTC's centralized registry."
According to the testimony, the FTC's proposal includes a provision that would enable consumers who have placed themselves on the FTC's national "do-not-call" registry to receive some telemarketing calls. "Under that provision, consumers would be able to receive calls from or on behalf of specific sellers, or on behalf of specific charitable organizations, by providing express verifiable authorization" to them to do so. Harrington stated that "this feature of the proposal addresses industry's suggestion that consumers may not desire an all-or-nothing approach to telemarketing calls."
The testimony expressly recognized the importance of the interplay between the FTC's proposed national do-not-call registry and state do-not-call lists. The testimony stated that there are a number of possible scenarios for such interfacing, including the sharing of state and national do-not-call database information. Harrington noted that the FTC is seeking specific comments on this issue, and on the various states' experience with different approaches to funding their "do-not-call" registries, including any problems encountered with those approaches.
The Commission vote to approve the testimony was 5-0.
Public comment is invited on the FTC's "do-not-call" proposal. Comments can be filed online at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/donotcall/form.htm. Written comments can be submitted to the Office of the Secretary, Room 159, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. Copies of the testimony are available from the FTC's Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
(FTC File No. V020010)