When the FTC amended the Telemarketing Sales Rule in 2003, it required telemarketers to transmit Caller ID information. That policy had three benefits. It promoted privacy by allowing people to screen out unwanted telemarketing calls. It increased industry accountability by making it harder for companies to remain anonymous. And it helped law enforcement by making it easier to identify fraudsters and companies who violated the Do Not Call Registry.
Fast forward to 2010. Seven years may not seem like much, but it’s an eternity in Telecom Time. Nowadays many businesses have access to technologies that allow them to transmit Caller ID information that doesn’t reflect the real source of the call. The FTC has brought ten cases in the past five years alleging that abusive telemarketers concealed their identities from consumers. Recent actions against telemarketers pitching fraudulent extended auto warranties and credit card interest rate reduction programs charged them with violating the Caller ID requirements.
That’s why the FTC is asking for comments on whether it should modify the TSR to reflect today’s – and tomorrow’s – Caller ID technologies. The Notice asks specific questions about the TSR and Caller ID, including:
-- Would changes to the TSR improve the ability of Caller ID services to accurately disclose the source of telemarketing calls or improve the ability of service providers to block calls in which information on the source of the call is not available, or has been spoofed?
-- Should the FTC amend the Caller ID provisions of the TSR to recognize or anticipate specific developments in telecommunications technologies relating to the transmission and use of Caller ID information?
-- Should the FTC amend the Caller ID provisions of the TSR to further specify the characteristics of the phone number that a telemarketer must transmit to a Caller ID service? For example, should the Rule require that the phone number transmitted be one that’s listed in publicly available phone directories, a number with an area code and prefix that are associated with the physical location of the telemarketer’s place of business, a number that is answered by a live representative, or automated service that identifies the telemarketer by name?
-- Should the FTC amend the Caller ID provisions to allow a seller or telemarketer to use trade names or product names in the name information displayed by Caller ID services?
Interested in filing a comment? The deadline is January 28, 2011.