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‘Do-Not-Call’ turning tide on telemarketers

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by Kenneth Todd Ruiz
Managing Editor

Twenty-two months after it was announced, the National Do-Not-Call registry received the first complaints against telemarketers last Saturday after a dramatic battle encompassing all three branches of government.

Federal and state legislative bodies, the courts, regulatory agencies and the White House all stepped up to the plate to support or fight the controversial program.

For the public, there is little controversy as most people overwhelmingly support the idea of curtailing unsolicited telephone calls to their homes.

“I don’t really get those yet,” said Tiffany Park, sophomore in the education department. “But my dad doesn’t even answer the phone any more. I can’t even get a hold of him.”

Essentially a list of phone numbers made off-limits to most telemarketers, the registry is overseen by the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.

The American Teleservices Association claimed that the new rules would take jobs away from two million workers, although the most recent U.S. economic census shows telemarketing companies employing one quarter that amount.

“It sounds like a good idea, but a lot of people are going to sign up, and it is going to lower sales for telemarketers,” said Tammy Hyde, a junior psychology major.

Since the system went into effect, the headsets have fallen silent at several companies that have laid off employees or shut their doors entirely.

While telemarketers have cried foul, some believe that the law has only become necessary to prevent something that was never acceptable behavior.

“Interrupting people without permission in their homes to make a sales pitch?” said Brian Fields of La Verne. “Isn’t it kind of common sense that you don’t do that? But they do it all the time, so they finally had to make a law.”

The idea for the registry was first announced January of 2002, but did not receive the support of Congress until March of this year.

On June 27 the list opened and received more than 10 million registrations in the first day.

Within four days, it had reached almost 25 million, according to the FTC.

Soon after, the FCC developed new rules mirroring the FTC’s Do-Not-Call system, and expanded it to include prohibitions against companies beyond the FTC’s reach, such as banks and insurance companies.

On Sept. 23, with more than 50 million registrations on the list, the U.S. District Court of Oklahoma issued an order and judgment that the FTC lacked the authority to implement the program.

One day later, the FCC promised to pick up the gauntlet and enforce the list.

Congress, realizing the issue was political pay-dirt, snapped out of partisan paralysis long enough to legislatively give the FTC the authority to proceed, a law was drafted and signed by the president within four days.

That same day, however, the drama erupted anew as a Colorado court ruled that the First Amendment rights of telemarketers would be violated by the new system, and new registrations were shut down.

It was not until last Saturday that the registry went into effect after the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Colorado decision.

Telemarketers must keep their list of proscribed numbers updated, including a “scrub” every 90 days with the registry. Fines for breaking the rules can run up to $11,000.

The system only applies to commercial callers ­ your number is still fair game to charities and other non-profit organizations.

New registrations began again on Oct. 9, and is available at www.donotcall.gov.

Registering on the Web site is a simple process.

Simply select the “Register a Phone Number” link, then enter your telephone number and a valid e-mail address.

They will send a message to the e-mail address you specified to verify your registration.

According to the site, three months after you register, telemarketers must stop calling and you may file a complaint against them.

Although legal challenges to the program continue to be filed, it is currently in effect, and complaints are being actively pursued by the FTC.

Complaints can be registered either on the Web site or by telephone at (888) 382-1222.

According to the Web site, filing a complaint requires the date you got the call, and either the name or telephone number of the company that called you.

Registration is valid for five years, and numbers can be unregistered at any time.

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