FTC 'DO NOT CALL' LIST HITS SETBACK IN CONGRESS

Authorization to Implement Plan Cut From Appropriations Bill

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The Federal Trade Commission's plan for a national "do not call" telemarketing list appears to have suffered a setback on Capitol Hill last night, but it was not clear if the FTC's proposal will be permanently derailed.

Language giving the FTC authority to implement the do-not-call list and the $16 million needed to launch the program was originally included in the Senate's version of an omnibus appropriations bill. That bill is in conference committee between the Senate and House and is slated for a vote later this week.

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its plan because it needs about four months to launch the list and then several more months for people to sign up before the list can take effect. Consumers who sign up for the list aren't supposed to be called by telemarketers for industries whose marketing is overseen by the FTC. The cost to purchase the list, which each marketer is required to do under the FTC's plan, would eventually pay to maintain the program.

Aides to U.S. Sens. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C., confirmed last night that a House-Senate conference committee working on the omnibus appropriations bill dropped language that would have given the FTC legal authority to implement the proposal this year, even as it went ahead and gave the FTC the $16 million needed in funding.

Sen. Kohl issued a statement criticizing the move and suggested it killed the do-not-call plan.

'Sick and tired' of calls
"Creating a national 'do-not-call' list is about protecting consumers," he said. "The vast majority of American consumers -- myself included -- are sick and tired of receiving these calls. The money that would have funded the FTC's efforts to create a national 'do not call' list was mysteriously killed in the middle of the night and without a vote. This is both undemocratic and outrageous."

However, Ken Johnson, an aide to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman W. J. "Billy" Tauzin, R-La., said the action was being misunderstood. He said negotiators merely acceded to Rep. Tauzin's view that appropriations bills shouldn't be used to grant new legislative authority, which instead shouldd be granted under a separate bill. Mr. Johnson said the House would give the FTC the needed authority in legislation due to be voted on today.

Senate procedures
An aide to Sen. Hollings, though, said that while Congress has to act on the appropriations bill or risk shutting down the government, requiring the Senate to approve separate "do not call" legislation for the FTC could kill the list. Under Senate rules any senator could put a "hold" on a Senate vote on the legislation, forcing the legislation either to sit or a higher vote to be taken, which would depend on Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., commitment to schedule time for the vote.

An FTC spokesperson had no comment on the congressional action.

The FTC list is currently being challenged in two lawsuits brought by the Direct Marketing Association and the American Teleservices Association. The Federal Communications Commission has plans to require marketers under its jurisdiction to also use the FTC list.

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