The Telemarketer Do not Call List and the Politics Around it

By: Erin Becker

The Do Not Call Registry is a list of over 145 million phone numbers that individual Americans have registered in order to limit the number of telemarketing call they receive. In a joint effort by the FTC and FCC, the government provides this free service to its citizens in order to protect their privacy and reclaim their time as their own. The onslaught of telemarketing calls prompted the creation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act in 1991, but despite its good intentions, it was inadequate. Although this act empowered people to challenge the caller with a serious of questions, it was insufficient and not an adequate deterrent to direct sales companies. The situation worsened significantly when long distance calling costs dropped. It was suddenly affordable for these companies to make more calls more often. In 2002, public demand motivated the government to find a solution.

The idea of the Do Not Call Registry was not universally popular. Some public officials, along with citizens and businesses, were concerned about freedom of speech limitations. By blocking certain telemarketing calls, one could argue that you were silencing the caller and denying them the right to freely express themselves. The other side of the debate emphasized the individual's right to privacy and the right to not be disturbed by unwanted and unsolicited calls. Other means of marketing are permitted, so it can be argued that limiting this one avenue of outreach did not effectively silence the company which was making the call.

As of January, 2006, 76% of American adults had registered their numbers. The popularity of the registry has been confirmed, and virtually all public debate about it has been ended. Public officials have had to concede that the rights of consumers to privacy and to their own time are greater than the rights of businesses who wish to solicit. The only question left regarding the Do Not Call Registry is whether or not consumers will have to renew their registration. Even this issue seems largely decided. The FTC and FCC have made it very clear that they intend to make registrations permanent pending final congressional or agency action.

Lastly, any concerns that public officials might have had about political action and democracy are resolved as well. Along with charities, telephone surveyors, and businesses with which the person already has a relationship, calls from political organizations are exempt. The Do Not Call Registry does not prevent political organizations from reaching the public.

Although there were initially many concerns about the creation of this registry shared by public officials, the public, and businesses, it has become clear with the passage of time that the registry has not unduly burdened business, and that its benefits to consumers are great.

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