FTC, FCC Move to Curtail Telemarketing


People fed up with unwanted telemarketing can sign up
beginning today for a national do-not-call list that will
block many sales calls.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said June 26 it would launch the free service, first proposed last year. In a related action, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moved to plug holes in the list’s protections. The agency voted to include in the program industries whose calls it regulates, including airlines, banks and telephone companies.

The FCC action also would cover faxes and calls made from within a state—the FTC could only police interstate calls.

Telemarketers may attempt up to 104 million calls to consumers and businesses every day, the FCC said, citing industry estimates.

Nationwide registration should be available about 10 days later. Consumers will have to call from the number they want to register. The Web site and phone number have yet to be announced.

Consumers may sign up for the registry on a Web site by providing the phone number they want protected and an E-mail address so they can receive a confirmation message, the FTC said. Telephone registration using a toll-free number will begin at the same time in states west of the Mississippi River, including Minnesota and Louisiana, the FTC said.

The government says consumers who register should see a decrease in telemarketing calls after it begins enforcing the do-not-call list in October. The FTC expects people to register up to 60 million phone numbers in the first year, said agency spokeswoman Cathy MacFarlane, according to Associated Press. There are about 166 million residential phone numbers in the United States, she said.

While the national list is intended to block most telemarketing calls, there are limits. Charities, surveys and calls on behalf of politicians also are exempt.

Beginning in September, telemarketers will have to check the list every three months to determine who does not want to be called. Those who call listed people could be fined up to $11,000 for each violation. Consumers would file complaints by submitting the company’s name and phone number to an automated system by phone or online.

People would have to renew their registration every five years.

In 2001, nearly 185 million people spent $270 billion on purchases that originated from telemarketing calls, according to the Direct Marketing Association.

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