GETTING IT RIGHT AT FTC

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If at first you don't succeed, try again. And the Federal Trade Commission learned from its mistakes. Its second crack at industrywide rules to curb fraud and other abusive tactics in telemarketing is now playing to positive reviews from business groups.

That was not the case with FTC's first attempt, which stunned business by proposing to restrict all telemarketers from using common tactics, such as follow-up calls, while imposing some burdensome new requirements. This dragnet approach was meant to snare the con artists that use telemarketing to prey on vulnerable consumers, but it threatened to force countless honest marketers to make costly, and unneeded, changes in their telemarketing programs, too.

This is the sort of informed pragmatism we hoped the FTC would embrace when Democrat Robert Pitofsky assumed the chairmanship this year. Mr. Pitofsky, from previous tours at FTC as a key ad regulation policymaker and as a commissioner, knows blunderbuss tactics that cripple all marketers to get at the crooks can turn legitimate business people from FTC allies to FTC foes.

Pragmatism is not timidity, however. This FTC will be no pushover on accuracy in advertising, and ad leaders eager for FTC to replace the Food & Drug Administration as chief regulator of prescription product advertising to consumers should keep that in mind. FTC might bring welcome flexibility, but it would be smart to check Chairman Pitofsky's thinking before ad leaders go much further.

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