As part of its tightening of regulations governing telephone sales, the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday set out proposals for a national ‘do not call’ registry for telemarketers.

In October, FTC chairman Timothy Muris unveiled a privacy scheme dubbed the Telemarketing Sales Rule, as it sought to hand consumers greater power over sales calls made to their houses.

The new, FTC-maintained registry would enable consumers to stop most marketing calls, though they would be able to choose companies and charities whose messages they wanted to hear. It would replace the current system whereby consumers have to contact individual telemarketers to be removed from their lists.

Companies paying no heed to the registry could incur fines of up to $11,000 every time they ignore it.

However, there is some way to go before the proposal comes into force. “Consumers need to understand today’s action is the first step, commented Howard Beales, director of the Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “If adopted, it will be a while before the national ‘do not call’ registry can become a reality.”

Public hearings regarding the list and other suggested reforms to the regulation of telemarketing will be held in June, and it may be a year before the commissioners vote on it.

However, industry bodies urged caution: “The government may be overstepping its boundaries by spending taxpayer dollars to limit communication that is protected by the First Amendment,” argued Direct Marketing Association president H Robert Wientzen.

News sources: New York Times;