‘Do Not Call’ list activated Monday

Next Monday, the “National Do Not Call Registry” (NDNCR) will be activated in a federal effort to protect consumers from an overabundance of telemarketing calls.

The registry, managed by the Federal Trade Commission, is a list of consumers who have indicated their preference to limit the quantity of telemarketing calls they receive.

During the five weeks since registrations began on June 27, more than 30 million consumers have listed their telephone numbers in the NDNCR.

Nearly 24 million, or 80 percent of those registrations, have been made over the Internet, and six million, or 20 percent, have been made via telephone.

Exact figures of Kaua‘i consumers on the registry were not available, though just over 100,000 Hawai‘i consumers have registered for the no-call list.

California leads with the greatest number of state registrations, 3.4 million, followed by Florida with 2.2 million, and Texas with two million.

“Millions of consumers registered their telephone numbers successfully within the first few days of the opening of the registry,” said Timothy J. Muris, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. “And hundreds of thousands of numbers still are being entered every day. We want to do everything we can to make certain that consumer expectations about the registry are met.”

The registry’s no-call provisions will be enforced by FTC and state officials beginning in early October.

The registry was created after a three-year review of the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), as well as the FTC’s experience enforcing the TSR. Many states have their own do-not-call lists. The FTC intends on coordinating the national registry with the state-wide lists to avoid duplication.

The calls protected under the rules of the TSR cover any plan, program or campaign to sell goods or services through interstate phone calls, which also includes telemarketing calls made on behalf of third-party sellers.

Registry penalties for telemarketers found calling folks on the do-not-call list do not cover calls made from charities, political organizations, telephone surveyors or companies with which a consumer (who is on the registry) has an existing business relationship.

In the case of an existing business relationship, a company can call for up to 18 months after the customer’s last purchase, delivery or payment, unless the customer asks the company to discontinue calls. The customer can do this at any point in the 18-month time frame.

If the company does not honor the request and the consumer is on the list, it could face a fine of up to $11,000.

Consumers can register their telephone number at donotcall.gov, or by calling toll-free 1-888-382-1222. Registration is free. However, consumers must make sure to confirm their registration.

“People must click on the link in the e-mail from Register@donotcall.gov to confirm their registration,” Muris said. “Without clicking on the e-mail confirmation, the registration doesn’t get logged into the database.

“We know that some people haven’t completed the process, and we’re suggesting that they go back to the site, verify their registration, and print out their confirmation. That way, when enforcement begins on October 1, they can be sure that the number of telemarketing calls they get will be cut dramatically,” he added.

Sellers, telemarketers and other service providers can access the national registry any time by visiting http://www.telemarketing.donotcall.gov.

Company representatives must provide identifying information about themselves when going to the registry.

On Monday, Sept. 1, telemarketers will be able to access the NDNCR. Companies will be required to “scrub” (merge) their call lists against the national “do not call” registry at least once every 90 days.

There is no fee for companies to access the registry for up to five area codes. The fee to access the registry beyond the initial five area codes is $25 per each piece of data, with a maximum annual fee of $7,375 for the entire U.S. database.

Company representatives could be held liable if they place any telemarketing calls unless the seller pays the required fee for access to the registry. That fine is up to $11,000 per violation.

The TSR does offer a “safe-harbor” rule for inadvertent mistakes. If a company can show that it meets all requirements of the safe-harbor rule, it will not be subject to civil penalties or sanctions for accidentally calling a consumer who had specifically asked for no calls.

In order for a business to meet safe-harbor regulations, its representatives must, among other things, monitor and enforce compliance with the procedures; maintain a company-specific list of telephone numbers it may not call; and have written procedures to comply with do-not-call requirements.

Business Editor Barry Graham can be reached at bgraham@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 251).

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