FTC to Keep Phone Numbers on Do-Not-Call Registry

Won't Scrub List After Five Years as Originally Planned

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The Federal Trade Commission, responding to congressional pressure, said today it won't automatically remove phone numbers from its do-not-call registry after five years as it originally planned. The move could make it even harder for marketers to use outgoing phone calls to obtain new customers.

FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras announced the moratorium today as a House Energy and Commerce Committee readied to vote on legislation reauthorizing the do-not-call. The legislation could require the FTC to make inclusion on the list permanent. She said the FTC wouldn't remove numbers pending either congressional action or a more extensive agency rulemaking on whether to make registrations permanent.

145 million numbers
The do-not-call list has 145 million phone numbers, but no one knows how many households or consumers that represents.

When the FTC originally launched the list in October 2003, the agency anticipated that because 16% of numbers changed every year and 20% of Americans move, it would have to take two steps to see that listed numbers really represented people who didn't want to be called.

One was that numbers reassigned by phone companies were automatically scrubbed and the other was that numbers registered for five years would eventually expire and have to be reregistered.

As the five-year anniversary has approached, consumer groups have expressed fear that consumers would forget to reregister and start receiving marketers' calls again.

Committee testimony
In testimony at the committee today, Lydia Parnes, the FTC's director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, said that some of the conditions that led the FTC to require reregistration have changed.

"Since then ... increased usage of cellphones and increased popularity of telephone-number portability may have had an impact on data underlying the 2003 rulemaking proceeding," she said.

The Direct Marketing Association supported the change.

Jerry Cerasale, exec VP, said marketers have adjusted to the list and don't want to risk angering consumers who don't want to be called.
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