Do Not Call List: How Has It Affected the Telemarketing Industry?

The Do Not Call List is a legislative practice that enables people to put their phone numbers on a special record not to receive unauthorized calls from telemarketers. The idea was developed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the aim of which is to protect consumers’ rights. The agency, however, has spent three years on studying the prevailing attitudes towards telemarketing. Consequently, various surveys and forums have revealed that society was largely dissatisfied with the annoying calls and greatly supported the register implementation. Prior to the introduction of the Do Not Call List in 2003, different companies were making almost 24 billion calls each year, so that their profits accounted to $211 billion (Bateman et al.). While businesses have been gaining sufficient financial benefits by selling their products and services via phone calls, consumers perceived it as a violation of their privacy.

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Legal Procedure of the Do No Call List Implementation

There is no single legal act that would establish and implement the National Do Not Call List into practice. It is controlled by different regulations that overlap both on federal and state levels. On national level, however, this issue is governed by the Congress, which holds the power of decision-making. Further, it has passed two legislations, which grant the FTC and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the right to exert authority in cases related to telemarketing. In 1991 the first rule, namely the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), was adopted. It was the initial step towards granting people the right to block the annoying calls. Firstly, the regulation that obliged all companies to create their own lists of clients who did not give their consent to receiving calls was introduced. In fact, this measure proved to be rather ineffective. In 1994, the Congress passed the next Telemarketing Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act (TCFAPA). Consequently, FTC has initiated the establishment of Telemarketing Sales Rule that forbade the companies to make calls to people, who voiced their unwillingness to receive them. The decision, however, was strongly opposed by telemarketers, who questioned the authority of the FTC and claimed it to be the infringement of the First Amendment rights. In response to it, the Congress has then issued an additional Do Not Call Implementation Act  to confirm the competence of both the FTC and FCC in establishing the Do Not Call List (Ruane). The first enrolment started in 2003, and it was supposed to stop its operation in five years, so that the consumers would have to re-register their numbers. However, the FTC claimed that it would threaten the privacy of people and delivered a petition with a request to cancel the expiration rule. In 2007, the Congress has accepted the petition and issued the Do Not Call Improvement Act, which prohibited removing the phone numbers from the List (Biennial Report to Congress).

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The Impact on the Telemarketing Industry

In 2003, when the Congress has passed the Do Not Call Registry law, there were more than 50 million people across the USA, who immediately joined the programme and added their phone numbers to the List. The main reason why people were against telemarketing was the fact that proposed goods did not meet the actual needs and demands. The annoyance of the calls, which could distract a person from having a meal or spending time with family, was the second factor that contributed to this tendency. Americans further continued to show their interest in this process, and in 2006 the number of people who decided to join the List reached 122 million. After the adoption of the legislation, telemarketing companies have started to predict the anticipated financial losses that they would encounter. Hence, they estimated that it could cost them over $50 billion annually. Moreover, it also entailed the staff reduction among the telemarketing employees (Bateman et al.). Nowadays, the number of people, who decided to join the List, is still growing. In 2015, 4.9 million phone numbers were added (Biennial Report to Congress).

After the Do Not Call List implementation, telemarketers have faced a necessity to change their business strategy in order to compensate the losses sustained due to the reduced number of of their potential clients. Firstly, the companies have switched their advertising towards inbound marketing, realized through social media, web pages, printed media, and billboards. Then, telemarketers also tried to use the restrictions, imposed by the List, to their own advantage. They were no longer wasting their time on the customers, who were not interested in the proposed goods and services, but rather could focus on those that showed an involvement. Special attention was given to clients, who initiated calls on their own, as they were more willing to buy company’s products. Another technique, which was applied in telemarketing after the Do Not Call List, was the substitution of live calls with messages that were recorded in advance. Moreover, telemarketers have also developed the in-person style of communication with consumers (Bateman et al.).

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Apart from encouraging telemarketers to provide more customer-oriented services and build a stronger cooperation with their clients, the Do Not Call List has also led to the appearance of some illegal telemarketing channels. It became possible due to the constant evolution of the technology. Thus, telemarketing companies started to use some online programs that enable them to access even those people, who have included their numbers to the register. Furthermore, there is also an opportunity to hide the true ID of the call, so that the company cannot be traced by lawyers. Recorded messages that are applied instead of the live calls can also violate the legislation and reach people, who are on the List. These ways of telemarketing did not allow the FTC and FCC to detect the offenders and protect the people’s privacy. Consequently, in 2015 each month over 175,000 people made complaints about receiving unauthorized robocalls. The FTC reacts to this problem and takes appropriate steps in order to deal with unlawful calls. For example, in 2012 it organized the Robocall Summit and involved many technicians, who were asked to work on the solution to the issue (Biennial Report to Congress).  Afterwards, some special applications and programs that block the messages as well as collect the information about the senders were created. Although the introduction of the Do Not Call List did not eliminate all the inconveniences that telemarketing was causing to consumers, it has significantly improved the situation, when the number of annoying calls has decreased significantly. Therefore, the aim of the FTC was reached and the measures that were taken to protect the privacy rights proved to be effective (Varian et al.).

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In conclusion, the implementation of the Do Not Call List on national level was approved by the Congress in 2003. According to the legislation, consumers were authorized to put their phone numbers on the register in order not to receive the calls from telemarketers. It has imposed a serious challenge on telemarketing industry, because only during the first year of the List’s operation they have lost 50 million of potential clients and faced sufficient financial losses. Thus, telemarketers were forced to change their selling strategies and focus on inbound marketing, as well as to apply the illegal means of accessing the clients, for example, through the recorded messages. However, the creation of the Do Not Call List has proved to be beneficial for common people, because it protected their privacy rights.

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