Smart Calling May Be Long-Term Answer for Telemarketers (539 wd
By Paul Barbagallo, assistant editor, Target Marketing & Inside Direct Mail
Legislation establishing state-maintained telemarketing do-not-call lists has been introduced in Minnesota, Oklahoma and Washington State. If enacted, these states will join 25 others already maintaining their own lists. These bills follow the heavily debated do-not-call registry in California, a state so innundated with evening phone solicitations that the measure gained snowball-like momentum as it rolled to the Capitol.
Senate Bill (SB) 771 eventually passed, enabling Californians for sign up for the registry beginning in January 2003. Under the program, California consumers will be able to place their phone number on the state's "do-not-call" list for three years for a fee of $1.
But businesses at first opposed the legislation, largely on the grounds that it would cut off what has proved a successful marketing avenue. Then Assembly Republican Leader Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks), said federal law already restricts telemarketers from making unwanted phone calls to consumers. He criticized SB 771 as government overregulation of business.
"Every day, this Legislature continues to move us toward less personal responsibility," Cox told the Sacramento Bee in September 2001. "The government is in fact our nanny."
That brings us to the present. Marketers now are responding to the Federal Trade Commission's proposal for a national telmemarketing do-not-call list announced January 22. The proposal would ultimately modify the Telemarketing Sales Rule, which prohibits deceptive sales calls.
In an apparent response to the proposal, The Direct Marketing Association (The DMA) created a teleservices ethics committee, which would "serve as an industry watchdog" while enforcing its telemarketing rules. The American Teleservices Association (ATA) reacted similarly, saying that the FTC is adding complications to an already confusing situation.
"It seems...that the FTC's solution to some of the problems is to add more legal requirements, instead of enforcing those already in effect," said Matt Mattingley, the ATA's director of government affairs, in a statement.
Mary Ann Falzone, teleservices consultant and president of Falzone and Associates, said that telemarketers must be smart about calling.
"Some of this we brought on ourselves," Falzone said. "[People] are disgusted and saturated by too many low quality calls. That's where the backlash is."
The industry should certainly expect tighter and tighter restrictions, said Jon Hamilton, president of JHA Telemanagement. Hamilton has also served as the National President of the American Telemarketing Association as well as Chairman of the DMA's Telephone Marketing Council.
If anything drives the telemarketing industry out of business, Hamilton says, it's to ignore these signs. "We have to stop calling people who don't want to be called."
Hamilton said that one thing marketers could do to counteract the FTC's proposed registry would be to stand behind the DMA's Telephone Preference Service (TPS). TPS is a residential file of individuals who have contacted The DMA and registered with TPS by providing their names, home addresses and home phone numbers. It is an easy way for businesses to purge calling lists of consumers who do not want to receive promotional calls at home. Consumers find out about the service through state and local consumer agencies and print and broadcast advertising. Once registered, they remain on the list for five years.
"Telemarketers need to get behind it and support it," Hamilton said.