The Federal Trade Commission today announced it has amended the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) to establish fees for industry access to the National Do Not Call Registry. Under the approved fee schedule, the annual cost for companies to access phone numbers in the registry will be $25 per area code, up to a maximum annual fee of $7,375 to access numbers for the entire country. There will be no charge for companies to access the first five area codes of data. Currently, the national registry includes more than 28 million registered numbers.
On October 1, 2003, the Commission will begin enforcing the “do-not-call” requirements of the TSR, and may bring actions against companies that make telemarketing calls to consumers’ whose telephone numbers are on the national registry. Starting September 1, these companies will be able to access the national registry, by area code, to obtain the phone numbers of consumers who do not wish to receive their calls.
In responding to requests from commenters, the FTC will allow companies that are not required to purchase phone numbers on the registry – primarily those involved in political fund-raising, charitable solicitations, and conducting surveys – to access the registry voluntarily. To encourage these companies to undertake such voluntary scrubbing of their calling lists, the FTC will provide them with access to the National Registry at no cost. Such companies must certify, under penalty of law, that they are accessing the Registry solely to prevent telephone calls to telephone numbers on the Registry. This certification requirement will enable the Commission to take appropriate steps against those who misuse the Registry. The Commission’s goal is to enable these companies to contact only those consumers who have chosen not to place their names on the National Registry.
According to the final notice of proposed rulemaking detailing the new fees, after a seller pays the appropriate fee to access the National Registry, they would be given a unique account number that they could provide to any telemarketer or service provider that they employ on their behalf. This account number would allow those entities to access the National Registry, at no additional cost, on behalf of their seller-client. It would be a violation for any seller – or seller’s telemarketer – to initiate an outbound call to any number in an area code unless the seller has first paid the annual fee for that area code and removed all registered numbers from their call list.
The final fee rule announced today also makes a number of changes in the proposals originally set forth in the revised fee notice of proposed rulemaking announced earlier this year. Specifically, it allows telemarketers and other service providers or sellers voluntarily to buy access to the National Registry, if they wish to do so, and it adopts a provision from the Federal Communication Commission’s rules that specifically prohibit any entity that accesses the Registry from participating in any arrangement to share the cost of access, including any arrangement with a telemarketer or service provider to divide the cost of access among various clients to that telemarketer or service provider.
The final rule also establishes a “bright line” test for which corporate divisions, subsidiaries, and affiliates would be treated as separate sellers for purposes of paying for access to the national registry. These entities would be considered separate sellers if: 1) they are separately incorporated or, for a non-corporate entity such as a partnership, they are a similarly distinct legal entity; and 2) they have different names or market their products under different names.
The complete text of the amended TSR is available on the FTC’s Web site at the following address: www.ftc.gov/os/2003/01/tsrfrn.pdf. The final fee rule will be published in the Federal Register shortly. Today the FTC also released detailed information for telemarketers, sellers, and service providers explaining how the National Do Not Call Registry will work. The Q&A for Telemarketers and Sellers About the Do Not Call Provisions of the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule are accessible at www.ftc.gov//bcp/edu/pubs/business/alerts/alt129.htm.
Copies of the Federal Register notice, as well as related information for consumers and businesses, 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, DC 20580.
(FTC File No. P034305)