Poll Finds DNC Registry Effective

The Wall Street Journal reports on a Harris Interactive poll that found that people who enroll in the Do-Not-Call Registry experience a reduction in telemarketing:

A large majority of Americans who have registered their phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry say are receiving fewer telemarketing calls than before, according to a Harris Interactive poll, indicating the list continues to be effective in blocking unwanted calls.

Approximately three-quarters of all U.S. adults (76%) say that they have signed up for the do-not-call list, a significant increase from 57% in January 2004 and 32% in September 2003, according to the online poll of 1,961 adults.

As of August 2005, there were 100.3 million registrations in the U.S., according to the Federal Trade Commission, which manages the registry. Registration began in June 2003 and telemarketers had to start heeding do-not-call rules in October that year.

Among those who have signed up, 18% say they haven’t received any telemarketing calls, a decrease from 25% in January 2004, and 61% say they have received “far less” calls than before they signed up on the registry.

In a 2005 report, EPIC pointed out that the Do-Not-Call Registry was far more effective than self-regualtory approaches to curbing telemarketing:

The Do-Not-Call Registry was a success because the FTC took the opposite approach from the self-regulatory system created by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). In every respect, the FTC ensured that the Registry would be easy to use and fair, while the DMA’s opt-out mechanism was difficult to use and relatively unknown.

For starters, the DMA’s system only applied to the industry association’s members. Telemarketers who had not joined the group were not bound to comply with consumers’ desire to opt-out. The FTC’s approach applied to a much broader group of telemarketers.

Second, the DMA’s list was named the “Telephone Preference Service.” The name and acronym, “TPS,” had no meaning to the public. To some, it could mean a list of people who preferred to be telemarketed. The FTC approach, on the other hand, was sensibly named and assigned a easy to remember URL, http://donotcall.gov, on the Internet.

Third, the DMA’s list required the consumer to actually write a letter for free enrollment. To enroll online, the consumer had to pay a fee and give their credit card number to the DMA. The FTC’s approach allows free Internet, mail, and telephone enrollment.

These forces combined to make the DMA’s market approach to telemarketing ineffective. The numbers speak for themselves. USA Today commented in 2002 that: “In 17 years, just 4.8 million consumers have signed up with the DMA’s do-not-call list. By contrast, just five states — New York, Kentucky, Indiana, Florida and Missouri — have signed up roughly the same number in far less time.”

By the way, one of the little-known facts about telemarketing was that phone companies were helping solicitors evade systems like Caller ID. Prior to the creation of the Do-Not-Call list, telemarketers were not required to transmit Caller ID when they made a solicitation. Accordingly, telephone companies sold calling systems to telemarketers that did not transmit Caller ID. At the same time, these telephone companies advertised Caller ID to consumers as a solution for telemarketing. The regulatory intervention of the FTC ended this practice, and now Caller ID is much more effective as a screening tool against solicitors.

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