DMA Politically Direct (Winter 2008): Do Not Call Bills Make Registration Permanent, Cap Fees
March 5, 2008 — As the first session of the 110th Congress came to a close in December 2007, the Senate and House each passed a pair of bills relating to the operations of the National Do Not Call Registry, which is run by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). President Bush signed into law S. 781 and H.R. 3541 on February 15. The measures do the following:
- Remove the original five-year expiration of phone numbers placed on the registry; now those registrations will be permanent
- Extend the FTC’s authority to collect registry-access fees
- Cap the access fees that the FTC can charge telemarketers
- Require the FTC both to improve on the accuracy of the registry and to report back to Congress on its progress
The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) supported the bills. Why? When the registry was established in 2003, the law’s implementing language included a provision requiring the FTC to remove registered numbers after five years in order to ensure the accuracy and validity of numbers.
In recent months, DMA has diligently advocated that any changes to this five-year expiration provision must require the FTC to "clean up" the registry and set in place an improved list-hygiene system.
Similarly, DMA persistently pointed out the necessity for the bills to require the FTC to improve and report on the registry’s accuracy. DMA had already provided the FTC with a sample of 20,000 numbers (out of more than 7 million numbers) of abandoned or reassigned phone numbers that the FTC had not removed from the registry. DMA awaits the FTC’s examination of that sample, and expects to meet with agency staff accordingly.
DMA is particularly pleased with the passage of S. 781, as the bill places a cap on the fees the FTC may charge for access to the no-call registry, and lowers the current fees charged by more than $2,000.
DMA worked closely with a number of Congressional offices to ensure that the new cap on the maximum annual access fee would be set at $14,850, or $54 for each area code, and would tie future fee increases to the Consumer Price Index. This provides telemarketers with a more reliable means to anticipate increases, in contrast with the outrageous 263 percent fee increase experienced since the registry’s 2003 launch.
The new law also maintains — per DMA’s efforts — the provision for free access to the first five area codes requested.
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