Reports Says Consumers to Favor Opt-Out Proposal

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The Federal Trade Commission opened three days of hearings today into its proposal for a national telemarketing "do not call" list that would be easy for consumers to join.

The discussions today contained many questions on the technical details of how to put together the list, but little by way of whether it should be done or what, if any, constitutional issues may be involved.

The hearing opened with questions on how the national list should effect state registrations; whether companies that had existing relationships with consumers should be exempted; and whether third parties should be allowed to add names to the list.

A number of groups complained that the proposed list, which would effect both commercial marketers and for-profit companies that made calls on behalf nonprofit groups, could increase costs, unfairly impact one type of commerce and unconstitutionally prevent nonprofit groups from making fund-raising appeals.

But even some privacy activists expressed surprise at the FTC's strong push for the national list.

"It's astonishing," said Jason Catlett, president of Junkbusters, a company that promotes internet privacy, who noted that the FTC swiftly moved from discussions of whether to regulate telemarketing to addressing whether to require consumers to opt in to phoned pitches.

A coalition of conservative policy groups, including the American Conservative Union and the Republican National Committee, today unveiled a letter they sent President Bush warning calling the FTC's proposal "an unnecessary expansion of government regulation that would do little to achieve its purported goal while harming consumers, nonprofits, businesses ... and jobs."

Consumer poll
Meanwhile, a report released Tuesday said consumers showed clear support for the "do not call" proposal. But the survey also suggests that consumers' comments about hating telemarketing don't really match their actions.

The report, prepared by the Information Policy Institute, a group that funds research on policy questions, said though consumers do a lot of complaining about telemarketing calls, 80% of the 1,000 people the group surveyed in six states bought a product or voted for a candidate or an issue as a result of a telephone solicitation in the last year.

However, despite their over-the-phone purchases, consumers favor the national list, the survey said.

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