The Do Not Call registry is on its way to becoming permanent.
The Senate on Wednesday followed the House and unanimously passed Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007 that will permanently prevent salesmen and other telemarketers from making those irritating dinner-time phone calls looking to sell you everything from aluminum siding to Zebra insurance (fine if you owned a Zebra I suppose).
There are actually two bills that make up the Do Not Call change. One gives the Federal Trade Commission the permanent authority to enforce the registry, the other spells out the details. About 150 million Americans have signed the Federal Do Not Call registry since 2003 and experts say without the permanent extension, up to one-third of those names could have fallen off the list by this coming Fall.
The new legislation will let consumers avoid having to renew their listing every five years. Most states will continue to have their own registries, experts said.
Aside from what telemarketing junk the bill does prevent, experts note what may also be a big deal is a provision that is NOT in this bill and that is protection for those other annoying time wasters: political robo calls.
The previous Federal Do Not Call act had a provision in it that protected political, charitable or survey calls. Not this time, at least for now. Such calls have been roundly lambasted in recent days on the presidential nomination trail. John McCain's campaign sent out robo-calls in the Sunshine State ahead of its high-stakes GOP presidential primary last month, prompting Romney to complain on national TV about what he deemed aggressive and negative calls, according to an Associated Press report. The Romney campaign also used robo-calls in Florida. In New Hampshire, which held the nation's first primary, Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign complained that automated calls from the Obama campaign went to voters on the "do not call" list, which is a violation of state law. Obama aides maintain the calls were legal. The Clinton campaign also made robo-calls in the state but said its calls did not violate the law, according to the AP. (There is a group called StopPoliticalCalls.org that says it can protect consumers from these calls.)
Beyond the robo call issue, the Do Not Call Extension Act, S.781, will reauthorize the FTC’s ability to collect fees from telemarketers to cover the operational costs of the program permanently. Currently, telemarketers pay $62 for each area code, with the first five area codes free and total fees capped at $17,050.
They are required to search the registry every month and drop from their call lists the phone numbers of consumers who have registered. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who sponsored the Senate bill, noted in a release that compliance with the registry has been high, but that the FTC has brought enforcement action against 52 individuals and 73 corporate defendants.
Violating the Do Not Call Registry subjects telemarketers to civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation. On April 10, 2007, FTC Chairman Deborah Majoras testified at a Commerce Committee Hearing that the FTC has obtained settlements with orders requiring payment of approximately $9 million in civil penalties and more than $8.2 million in consumer redress and disgorgement.
The FTC last Fall announced that it is cracking a few heads in an effort to get it through the thick skulls of telemarketers that "do not call" means you're not supposed to call.
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