Appeals Court Upholds Do Not Call Registry

FTC list appears to be successfully reducing the number of telemarketing calls to people who've asked not to be contacted.
Cold calling has been getting cold cocked lately. The U.S. Court of Appeals 10th Circuit on Tuesday upheld the constitutionality of the Federal Trade Commission's Do Not Call Registry, which appears to be successfully reducing the number of telemarketing calls to people who've asked not to be contacted.

"We are pleased that this popular program, like America's dinner hour, will not be interrupted," FTC chairman Timothy J. Muris said in a statement.

Several marketing companies--Mainstream Marketing Services, TMG Marketing, and American Teleservices Association--challenged the registry's constitutionality.

A Harris Interactive survey released last week suggests the registry is working well. The survey of 3,378 adults found that 57% of them say they signed up, and most of these people say they've either received no telemarketing calls since then (25%) or far fewer than before (53%). Only 5% of those who've signed up report getting the same number of calls, and just 1% say they get more calls.

The Direct Marketing Association, a marketing-industry trade group, says that the industry will abide by the law. "Regardless of where we go from here, we will follow the law and hold steady to the pledge we made to consumers when the do-not-call list was in legal limbo last fall: Our industry will respect the wishes of consumers who have placed their household telephone numbers on the do-not-call list," H. Robert Wientzen, president and CEO of the DMA, said in a statement.

The DMA contends the Do Not Call Registry is prone to abuse because there are no safeguards to prevent people from registering other people's phone numbers without their knowledge or consent. It argues that hackers could can "automatically register phone numbers in bulk via nefarious computer programming," thought the DMA isn't aware of any such activity. A spokesman says similar lists have had such problems.

So could spam be the next successful target of a "Do Not" list? Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll at Harris Interactive, suggests perhaps so, based on how effective the calling list has been. "In my experience, these results are remarkable," Taylor writes in the survey report. "It is rare to find so many people benefit so quickly from a relatively inexpensive government program. This successful initiative now raises more questions about the desirability of 'do not spam' legislation when, according to other surveys by Harris Interactive, the overwhelming majority of those online find spam very annoying."

The registry probably won't have much impact on the volume of spam. Legit telemarketers aren't going to try to replace telemarketing with E-mail messages, predicts Ray Everett-Church, chief privacy officer at data privacy and messaging consulting firm ePrivacyGroup. Everett-Church says reputable marketers won't risk damaging their brands by sending unwanted messages.

But watch your mailbox. "What we're seeing," he says, "is that marketers are redoubling their efforts at traditional marketing like direct mail."

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