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The Daily



06-30-03: Ohioans can register to stop telemarketers

The Daily Standard
    The Federal Trade Commis-sion's (FTC) nationwide do-not-call list that promises to restrict the telemarketing industry comes to Ohio starting Tuesday.
    Experts say the new regulation could reduce the amount of telemarketing pitches the average person gets by 80 percent.
    Ohioans can begin registering online at www.ftc.gov/donotcall on Tuesday. Starting July 7, those without Internet access can add their names and telephone numbers to the list by calling 1-888-382-1222.
    "Residents of Ohio feel harassed by telemarketing calls and are frustrated when a company won't take no for an answer," said Robert S. Tongren, director of the Ohio Consumer Counsel.
    Registration with the FTC is good for five years or until a telephone number is changed.
    The volume of calls likely will not ebb until this fall. Telemarketers do not have to stop calling numbers on the list until Oct. 1. Some businesses, such as banks, airlines and charities, are not bound by the new FTC rule, but experts believe the do-not-call list will reduce the volume of telemarketing calls into the average home by about 80 percent. Violators could be fined up to $11,000 for each prohibited call they make.
    Companies may call people who have bought or leased something from the company within the past 18 months. Telemarketers also can call if a person formally inquired about something or applied for something from the company in the past three months.
    Additionally, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week agreed to lend its authority to the FTC's do-not-call list. After the agencies sign a memorandum of understanding, the do-not-call list will apply to virtually all business except charities, pollsters and those calling on behalf of politicians.
    The FTC plan includes some other telemarketing rules, too. For example, telemarketers will have to identify themselves through caller ID technology in areas where it is available and will have to take steps to greatly reduce "dead air" and hang-up calls.
    A statewide do-not-call list would be created if a bill that has passed the Ohio Senate also survives a vote in the House. A state law on the issue is important, Tongren said, because the FTC's rule covers only interstate calls, although the FCC entry into the mix would wipe out that loophole.
    Americans west of the Mississippi River already have been allowed to add their numbers to the do-not-call list. During the past weekend, the FTC's Web site was recording about 1,000 hits every second. Federal officials expect as many as 60 million numbers to be registered this year alone.
    Joining the do-not-call list is free, but those who sign up by telephone also must provide an e-mail address for confirmation purposes.
    The telemarketing issue has even grabbed the attention of President George W. Bush.
    "Unwanted telemarketing calls are intrusive, they are annoying and they're all too common," Bush said last week. "We're taking practical action to address this problem."
    Cheaper long distance rates and the boom of computerized dialing devices has led to a five-fold increase in telemarketing calls during the past decade, FoxNews.com reported last week.
    Not everyone is pleased with the new regulations, though. Telemarketing industry analysts say the do-not-call list threatens to crippled an industry that employs 2 million people. The American Teleservices Association (ATA) blasted the FTC's program in a news release last week.
     "ATA members are dismayed that the FCC acted under political pressure and without a thorough study and public discussion of its action's terrible job loss consequences, curtailment of competition in key sectors of the economy and substantially diminished choices for the U.S. consumer," ATA Chairman Tom Rocca said.
    The ATA called the new program "a vote to eliminate 2 million jobs."
    But the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), another industry trade group, applauded the FTC's decision, saying the list will streamline the business for marketers and customers. By weeding out people uninterested in receiving such calls, telemarketers make themselves more efficient, the association said in a news release.
    DMA officials did, however, complain about the estimated $7,000 cost telemarketers will have to pay annually to get a copy of the government's list. The money is being used to help fund the formation of the list.


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