FTC Curbs Could Halve Call Audiences, Claim Telemarketers

06 January 2003

The US Federal Trade Commission’s new ‘do not call’ rules could deprive telemarketers of up to 50 percent of their stateside audience, claims Matt Mattingley, director of government affairs for the American Teleservices Association.

Speaking on last Wednesday’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Mattingley cited the effect of the recently enacted ‘do not call’ registers in twenty-seven states. In Minnesota alone, nearly sixty percent of households had registered, while other states have recorded call-exclusion requests from over 50% of homes.

Opt-outs on this scale if projected nationally following the enactment of any federal law would have a devastating effect : “If you take 60% of the customer pool out of the marketplace it can't help but have an adverse effect on the industry and that is what concerns our industry more than anything else – the sheer size of such a (national) list," said Mattingley.

He cited the existing ‘do not call’ schemes, including those operated by individual telemarketing firms and the national list voluntarily maintained by the Direct Marketing Association. “How many lists does it take to oversee an industry?” Mattingley moaned. “We are layering bureaucracy on an industry for what we can accomplish already with better enforcement and better education.”

His view was not shared by Eileen Harrington, associate director for marketing practices at the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection:. “The system we have isn’t working for consumers," she insisted. “The company-by-company opt-out in many instances doesn't result in fewer calls because often the telemarketers hang up before you can finish your sentence, ‘Please put me on your do not call list’.”

According to Harrington, the FTC has received more than 64,000 written comments from individual consumers during a consultation process – a level of consumer response she described as “phenomenal”. She added: “The overwhelming sentiment in these comments is that the existing system simply doesn't work for consumers.”

Data sourced from: AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff