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VOL. 117 | NO. 179 | Monday, October 6, 2003

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Terry Ramsey, Vice President of RidAll Pest Control

Businesses Brace for Do Not Call List

ANDREW BELL

The Daily News

Like millions of other Americans, Germantown resident Ruth Thomas hates it when those persistent telemarketers pick her number to call.

They always find the perfect time to call me, and usually its when I sit down for supper, she complained.

Yet Thomas can partially credit the small deck on her familys backyard property to one of those telemarketers.

We happened to be thinking about putting in one when one of those people called, and I thought, Well, why not find out an estimate? she said.

Thomas story is an indicator of the why companies rely on telemarketers.

But, outrage and what some feel is harassment received from telemarketing has spilled over into politicians agendas.

Final verdict. Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission activated its Do Not Call list, a registry of 50 million people who signed up to be excluded from phone soliciting.

But, in the days leading up to that trigger, more than one federal judge ruled the FTC did not possess the authority to implement such a list, citing it would limit free speech. The FTC is in the process of appealing those decisions.

Meanwhile, the legal volleying is being watched carefully by companies both nationally and locally, who rely on telemarketing to generate business.

The Direct Marketing Association the largest industry trade group representing telephone marketers in the United States estimates that if the list becomes official, hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost, with many companies shifting part of their workforce overseas.

At local company RidAll Pest Control, six employees make calls about three evenings every week.

Jobs lost. RidAll vice president Terry Ramsey said if the Do Not Call list is enforced, those six employees will lose their part-time jobs and the company will be forced to find alternative ways to make up for an estimated 30 to 40 percent in sales.

It certainly would make an impact on our business, he said.

Ramsey sympathizes with consumers unhappy with persistent phone calls, but said refuting their attempts takes minimal effort.

I understand why people dont like to be bothered, and Im one of them, he said. When I get home in the evenings there are about five or six telemarketing messages on my answering machine.

But, it takes me only about 30 seconds to erase them.

Ramsey has difficulty understanding how lawmakers can justify banning companies from advertising via the telephone.

Political

Its just something thats become political, soft music to a lot of peoples ears, he said.

Ramsey said the amount of new business garnered from the calls is far and between.

But still, there are people who want what were offering, so there is a business out there, he said.

Advertising shift. Ramsey said RidAll, like a lot of other businesses potentially affected by the list, would have to increase other advertising avenues, such as mail-out advertisements, to make up for lost revenue.

At American Resource Systems Inc., owner Tommy Briggs is uncertain how much increased mail-out business would be generated by businesses whose advertising is impacted by the Do Not Call list.

I think, ultimately, it will have a positive impact, but not huge, he said. It will, though, be hard to track just how much impact it will make.

Whats more pertinent, he said, is an improvement in the economy.

States lists. In June 2000, the state of Tennessee enacted its own Do Not Call List legislation, becoming one of 12 states nationwide with such a law.

The list prohibits telephone solicitation over telephone from Tennessee or elsewhere for the goal of encouraging the purchase or rental of or investment in property, goods or services.

There are, however, restrictions to the state Do Not Call program. A registered number is protected for only five years from the date of registry, and business numbers are prohibited from signing up at all. Consumers can be called by non-profits and businesses with whom they have a relationship.

The law also allows businesses to make occasional telemarketing calls as long as the company makes no more than three random calls per week and the calls are not part of an overall telemarketing business plan.

Lot of trouble. Cynthia Bond, co-owner of Bond Circulation, which is contracted to conduct subscription efforts by telephone calls for community newspapers and other businesses, said following the states Do Not Call list is a lot of trouble.

Because the company makes phone calls on a sequential numbering system, they first must first delete any numbers that correspond with the list.

The cost for the book is $500, and is updated annually.

If a telemarketer violates the law, the company faces stiff monetary penalties.

She noted that, by law, if a customers subscription has expired within a years time, the newspaper is permitted legally to try contacting again.

I believe that newspapers should be exempt from the list because telemarketing is the way papers increase their subscription rates, she said. It is a big hassle.

Right thing to do. Other companies are trying to use compliance to the lists to their advantage.

Last week, ServiceMaster Company announced that its business units, including TruGreen ChemLawn, will adhere to the national Do Not Call list, whether it becomes law or not.

Jonathan Ward, the companys chairman and chief operating officer, said, It is the right thing to do, but objected to the proposed laws stipulation that permits solicitation from some representatives including politicians and non-profit organizations.

Consumers on these lists are clearly saying they dont want the intrusion of unwelcome calls no matter who is on the other end of the line, he said. Our view is that all calls are created equal.

 

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