Only 25 million new numbers: Do-not-call? Few were to start with

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That 53.7 million phone numbers are listed on the Federal Trade Commission's do-not-call list comes as no surprise. The surprise is that more than half those numbers weren't being called anyway.

Now that telemarketers have cross-checked the national list with state and other do-not-call lists, the Direct Marketing Association and the American Teleservices Association said there is less disruption than expected because a large number of the nationally listed numbers weren't being called in the first place.

Some 8.4 million are cellphone numbers, according to one of the country's largest calling companies, Dial America Marketing, which did its check when there were 48.3 million numbers on the list. (It is currently illegal to call cellphones.) Another 2.3 million were already on the Direct Marketing Association's list of people expressing a preference not to be called. Another 11.6 million were on state lists and weren't being called. As many as 10 million numbers were never on lists of consumers' home residences, which means either that they are business numbers or unlisted consumer homes, neither of which were being called by companies looking for consumer purchases.

Finally, another 4.9 million represent phone numbers Dial America said were already on its company-specific do-not-call lists.

Although there is some overlap, Dial America president-CEO Art Conway said his company found that about 25 million of the initial 48.3 million represented new sign-ups, certainly not a small amount, but less than originally expected.

"We have seen some difference in available leads," he said, but added that the company has seen no difference in buying patterns.

Though the effect of the new signup is somewhat less than feared, the associations said they are seeing effects in the number of calls being made, industry employment and in the number of new telemarketing campaigns being launched. They are also finding technical problems.

"A number of our folks blew up servers trying to download the FTC's list," said Tim Searcy, executive director of the ATA.

He said some consumers who complain about being called when they are on the list don't understand that they can be called because the marketer has an "existing business relationship" with the caller. He said he is also hearing from smaller businesses-insurance agents, real estate brokers and others-who didn't understand until recently the list applies to them too.

Fast Facts

8.4 million: Cellphone numbers on national list

2.3 million: Already on DMA's do-not-call list

11.6 million: Already on state do-not-call list.

10 million: Business numbers on federal list.

4.9 million: Already on company-specific do-not-call lists.

Source: Dial America Marketing

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