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Consumers, Marketers Given Schedule for New Telephone Sales Rules

By Published on .

WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The Federal Trade Commission today said it would require marketers to begin using its national "do not call" telemarketing list in October, and that consumers can start registering for the list in July.

While the FTC had already indicated the do-not-call program would not have gone into effect until the fall, today's announcement is the first detailed schedule for its implementation. Originally, the FTC wanted the new telephone sales rules to be put into place by March 31.

List ready by September
Marketers will gain access to the

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list of consumers who do not wish to be called by telemarketers in September and will have to use that list every 90 days to screen their own calling lists. Consumers can register via the Internet to be on the list starting in July, with phone registration to be phased in at a later date.

Marketers face penalties of $11,000 per incident for calling someone on the list.

Despite today's announcement, some other key changes the FTC made to its telemarketing rule are due to take effect Monday, prompting a request by the Direct Marketing Association for an injunction (a federal court in Oklahoma City is hearing the request today). In the biggest change, the FTC put new limits on a common sales practice known as "predictive dialing," in which more phone calls are made than telemarketers have operators to handle. Many calls are expected many to go unanswered. Marketers say these "dropped calls" happen about 5% of the time, but under the new rules, the FTC requires no more than 3% of calls can by dropped.

Three lawsuits
While the FTC's plan for a national list has drawn praise from consumer groups, it has drawn the ire of telemarketers and direct marketing groups. Three separate lawsuits have so far been filed against the FTC. The DMA, the American Teleservices Association and Stonebridge Insurance have argued that the FTC overstepped its legal authority and that the rules as adopted are unconstitutional.

Separately, a Federal Communications Commission official said last week that it hopes to announce similar regulations by September.

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