Advertising and direct marketing officials say the final rules unveiled last week will meet the FTC's intent of targeting unscrupulous marketers while generally either leaving more mainstream marketers and publishers alone or requiring changes in record keeping and some procedures.
"I don't think for legitimate advertisers it will be difficult at all," said Linda Goldstein, a New York attorney who specializes in advertising law. "There is sufficient amount of teeth for action at the federal and state level. But it really hits at areas of abuse."
The Direct Marketing Association suggested that the rules are livable and praised the FTC for delaying their effectiveness from the expected Sept. 30 start to Dec. 31. "It gives companies an extra three months to figure out how to train people," said Meg Gottlieb, director of state government relations.
Besides delaying the effectiveness date, ad officials said the FTC did make a few changes in from the last draft.
In the final version, telemarketers get the go ahead to directly debit for products bought but only if they can verify costs have been fully disclosed to customers. Telemarketers say that means that a portion of calls will need to be taped.
The $10,000 penalty for making phone calls to people who have specifically asked not to be called is also more clearly spelled out.
Finally, the FTC will require that companies running contests either disclose odds and a method of alternative entry that doesn't require purchase via direct mail or have a phone number providing the information.
The ad executives say the biggest impact of the new rules will be in record keeping, with companies required to keep records on who they have called for two years.
The FTC originally proposed a broad set of rules that would have barred publishers from calling customers whose subscriptions hadn't yet expired, limited time periods for access to computer online services and barred sales without written disclosure.
The FTC said the new rules still impose a variety of new federal rules. Among them:
Callers will have to disclose they are making sales calls, how much a product costs and in the case of promotions, that no purchase is necessary to win.
Consumers can stop calls by asking not to be called again.
Telemarketers will be barred from seeking payment from consumers until promised services are rendered.