- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 1, 2003

Banks, insurers and telephone companies asked federal regulators yesterday not to extend new telemarketing rules to their industries.
The businesses are trying to pre-empt the Federal Communications Commission from starting a national do-not-call list, which would let consumers screen telemarketing calls from the companies.
Telemarketers are battling the Federal Trade Commission over new rules to give consumers greater power to limit unsolicited sales calls.
"The commission should focus its attention on stricter enforcement of its existing rules, rather than adopting new ones. In particular, a [do-not-call list] is not needed and would be costly," BellSouth Corp. attorney Stephen L. Earnest wrote.
Yesterday was the final day consumers and companies could file comments with the FCC, which intends to complete its review of the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act by spring. The agency, which received thousands of comments, has signaled that it will modify telemarketing rules to include a do-not-call list akin to the FTC's.
"As we have done since our proceeding was initiated in September, we will work closely with the FTC to craft rules that protect the privacy of the American consumer without penalizing legitimate telemarketers. Our goal is to avoid regulatory duplication by fashioning rules that benefit consumers and the telemarketing industry," said K. Dane Snowden, chief of the FCC's consumer and governmental affairs bureau.
The FCC received 6,994 consumer complaints about telemarketers during the second quarter last year, the most recent quarter for which statistics are available. Figures on third-quarter complaints will be released next week.
A new FCC list would let consumers avoid nearly all unsolicited telemarketing calls by supplementing the FTC list because the FCC regulates firms not under the trade commission's jurisdiction: banks, insurers and telephone companies.
Banks and phone companies filed numerous briefs with the FCC opposing a do-not-call list.
"A national registry … is broad in scope and is not narrowly tailored to any demonstrated consumer harm," SBC Communications Inc. attorney Davida M. Grant wrote.
The Mortgage Bankers Association of America and MBNA America Bank NA also urged the FCC not to start a national do-not-call list.
Others urged the FCC to adopt one.
The Office of the People's Counsel for the District of Columbia asked the FCC to place new limits on telemarketers to restrict calling times. FCC rules allow telemarketing calls each day of the week between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
The District's leading consumer advocate suggested that telemarketers not be able to call after 8 p.m. and should be prohibited from making calls on Sunday.
"Consumers often reserve Sundays for religious practices and spending time with family, and should not be disturbed by a company's attempt to generate business sales on a Sunday," wrote Elizabeth A. Noel, people's counsel for the District.
The fate of the FTC's telemarketing list remains uncertain. A House lawmaker introduced a bill Tuesday to fund a do-not-call registry, removing a significant hurdle to its implementation. But a clutch of telemarketers filed suit to prevent the federal agency from creating it.
The Direct Marketing Association and four telemarketing companies said the FTC's registry effort would violate free-speech laws and discriminate against an industry.
Telemarketers argue that 27 state do-not-call lists and a voluntary national list run by the association provide consumers enough protection.

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