The roll-out of the Federal Trade Commission’s controversial US telemarketing restrictions may be delayed until 2004 after the scheme’s funding was called into question.

The FTC is planning a national ‘do-not-call’ register, which it intended to launch by the summer. However, to do so it needs an initial payout from Congress of $16 million (€15.4m; £10m).

Here lies the problem. Representative W J ‘Billy’ Tauzin (Republican, Louisiana), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, plans 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.

Confirmed Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson: “We have absolutely no objections to the national do-not-call list, but we are not going to give the FTC carte blanche authority to move forward without a vigorous review of its proposal.”

Should the FTC fail to get its $16m in a government funding bill to be passed by the end of this month, it would probably have to wait until the start of the new fiscal year (October) to secure the necessary cash.

The agency estimates it would then take four months to set up the register, taking the launch date into 2004. Once the scheme is up and running, fees from telemarketers to access the list will repay the congressional cash.

Consumers will be able to sign up to the do-not-call register on the internet or via a toll-free phone number. Telemarketers – who will face fines of up to $11,000 for phoning banned numbers – fear the rules could halve their national audience [WAMN: 06-Jan-03].

One issue Tauzin’s committee is expected to raise is the role of the Federal Communications Commission, which is considering enforcing the list among telemarketers in sectors the FTC does not regulate, such as credit card firms.

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