Don’t Call Me. I’ll Call You. (National Do Not Call List Squabble)

Over the past week I’ve passed on a number of exciting deals offered to me over the phone. I wasn’t interested in reviewing “a copy of my credit report for accuracy” free for 30 days. I passed on The Los Angeles Times for just over a $1 a week. Said no thanks to three days and two nights in Las Vegas for $99 inclusive. And I’m perfectly happy with my long distance telephone service, thank you. Then there was this odd call where when I answered there was silence. After a second or third “Hello!” a recorded voice replied to me “in just a moment someone will be online to tell you about an exciting offer.” Yeah right.

Sometime in 1999 Time Magazine ranked telemarketing as #4 in its national poll of the 100 Worst Ideas of the 20th Century. In concept, I have nothing against the telemarketing industry. That is, inbound telemarketing, call centers and fulfillment facilities aid the convenience of modern lifestyles. But outbound telemarketing marks as high on my annoyance list as email spam.

So when the FTC this summer announced it was developing a national do not call list I applauded. By simply making a phone call or visiting a website you could opt-out of telemarketing for good. As with any government program or industry intervention, there inevitably are problems — loop holes and hard core opponents. But this plan sounded reasonable to me. I dreamed of a utopian world that would find a similar solution to spam.

Yesterday, industry groups including the powerful DMA (Direct Marketing Association) filed suit to block the regulation and stop the national do not call list. Among its arguments were claims that existing regulations in 24 states and a voluntary list sponsored by the DMA was a sufficient watch guard for consumer rights to privacy. Here’s Larry Abramson on NPR’s “All Things Considered” on the topic. (RealPlayer required) Read more about it here, here and here.

But telemarketers say 27 existing state do-not-call lists and a voluntary national list run by the Direct Marketing Association trade group should provide consumers enough protection […]

Hah. This is a joke. The DMA also sponsors a voluntary direct “do not mail” list. I’ve both sent in a written letter and completed their web form. Judging by the pile of 113 catalogs (see photo) I’ve received since mid-December, I’m afraid its attempts at self-regulation and voluntary action just won’t work.