As DMA Issues Concern, Congress Speeds Up Action

As Congress speed dials new legislation to make a do-not-call list airtight, the Direct Marketing Association is hoping the telemarketing industry respects consumers' desires to be left alone.

After Tuesday's surprise ruling by a federal judge to prevent the Federal Trade Commission's National Do Not Call Registry from taking effect next week, both sides scrambled to put the best face on the confusion.

In Washington, D.C., the House of Representatives quickly approved a measure to restore the registry by a vote of 412 to 8. The bill's sponsor, U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., predicted the U.S. Senate would approve the measure in short order, possibly as early as later Thursday. The bill will then go to President Bush's desk for approval, which is almost certain to come.

The bill gives the FTC the authority to establish a do-not-call registry, which a ruling by U.S. District Court judge Lee R. West said it did not have. The FTC had countered that it had been given authority in legislation approved by Congress had signed by the president in early 2003. The do-not-call list was a phenomenal success, with 50 million people signed up so far. It was supposed to take effect Oct. 1, threatening stiff penalties to telemarketers who call the numbers on the list.

Meanwhile, the Direct Marketing Association released a statement asking the telemarketing industry to comply with the spirit of the law.

"In spite of any changes that might result from the federal court's recent ruling, and whether or not there continues to be a government-administered national no-call list, it is appropriate for marketers to respect the wishes of consumers who have placed their phone numbers on the FTC's list," said H. Robert Wientzen, president and chief executive officer of the DMA.

The DMA represents some telemarketers although by no means all of them. The DMA said Thursday that it supported the judge's ruling and was concerned about the FTC's action in creating a registry without what the DMA said were procedures on authentication.

At the same time, a new study finds that consumers are upset about the federal court ruling. Consumers are upset about the ruling, according to a survey of 300 consumers conducted by InsightExpress, a market research company based in Stamford, Conn. Fifty-two percent of Americans are angry about the ruling, but 73% of the people who registered for the do-not-call list are upset. Almost 80% don't see any reason for delaying the list and Insight Express said 66% think the do-not-call list is "essential to their tranquility."

The InsightExpress survey found that 88% think telemarketing doesn't provide the products they're interested in and 67% don't consider telemarketers to be honest and trustworthy.

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