In a U-turn that would have earned him a penalty ticket if performed on a Louisiana highway the Republican congressman for that state, Representative W J “Billy” Tauzin on Wednesday withdrew his opposition to funding the Federal Trade Commission’s creation of a telemarketers' national ‘do not call’ list.

Tauzin, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, had previously planned to block these launch funds. In a letter written to FTC chairman Timothy J Muris at the close of last year, he said he would not approve the payment until his committee had had “adequate opportunity to properly review and evaluate” the scheme [WAMN: 08-Jan-03].

And as recently as Tuesday, Tauzin’s spokesman Ken Johnson insisted: “We are not going to give the FTC carte blanche authority to move forward without a vigorous review of its proposal.”

But within hours of this statement “Billy” underwent a Damascene conversion, lending his committee’s collective ear for just ninety minutes to a briefing on the ‘don’t call’ plan from chairman Muris.

At which point Tauzin reactivated spokesman Johnson: “We are working with the FTC to try to get one to two years' funding authority,” announced the mouthpiece. “We are shooting to get this done so that the $16 million in funding can be approved by the end of this month and the do-not-call list can be operational by the end of the year.”

Following the briefing, committee member John M Shimkus (Republican, Illinois) observed: “It will be nice to return to the days when you want to answer the phone.”

The FTC plan will enable consumers to call toll-free to list their home telephone number on a national ‘don’t call’ register, or sign-up via the internet. Telemarketers calling numbers on that list would risk fines of up to $11,000 for each transgression.

The $16 million (€15.25m; £9.9m) cost of setting up the list will be borne by the FTC but subsequently refunded by telemarketers, who will pay a fee to access the list and download data on banned numbers.

Tauzin noted that some industries, such as insurance, banking and telecommunications, will be exempt because the FTC does not doesn't have authority to regulate those businesses. “The last thing we need is for two separate agencies to have different jurisdictional scope crafting their own regulations,” he said.

Data sourced from: The Washington Post Online; additional content by WARC staff