FTC Solicits Input on Possible Revision to Telemarketing Caller ID Rules
On Dec. 7, 2010, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) seeking input on whether it should revise the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) to tighten regulations governing the caller ID display telemarketers must transmit when placing sales and solicitation calls. The FTC typically issues such ANPRMs to gather basic data to inform an ensuing rulemaking notice that solicits comment on specific rule changes that the agency later adopts (usually), after considering and sometimes making changes to reflect public input.
The present ANPRM asks questions about current practices that likely will result in new rules for displaying caller ID information by those placing sales and charitable solicitation calls (but not customer-care and similar non-sales calls).
Currently, under the TSR—which applies only to calls that are part of a plan, program or campaign to sell goods or services or to solicit charitable contributions—caller ID rules require telemarketers to transmit either their own phone number or that of the seller or charitable organization it represents. The rules also require adding the name of the telemarketer, seller, or charity if the telemarketer’s carrier makes doing so possible. The regulations grant flexibility as to what phone number must be appear, so long as it accurately identifies the telemarketer, seller or charity, and is answered during regular business hours.
Claiming that “increasingly common manipulation of caller ID information … has undermined the ability … to identify entities responsible for illegal telemarketing practices,” and anticipating that this may become more prevalent as telecommunications and networking technologies continue to develop, the FTC issued the ANPRM to collect data on whether the TSR should be amended to better achieve the objectives of the caller ID provisions, including enabling consumers and law enforcement to identify scofflaws. The FTC also asks whether it should amend the TSR to regulate services that misrepresent, conceal, or obscure the identity of telemarketers or sellers, and/or should expand the TSR’s provisions regulating oral disclosure of the identity of the seller or charitable organization.
More specifically, the ANPRM seeks comment on whether it is possible to amend the TSR to promote more reliable or specific caller ID information. It thus seeks input on how caller ID is used by consumers and regulated parties, and how telemarketers and service providers use caller ID technologies. The ANPRM indicates the FTC is particularly interested in recently introduced or soon-to-be-introduced technologies that affect consumer and law-enforcement use of caller ID. To that end, the ANPRM seeks comment on a range of caller ID-related issues, including:
- Whether TSR changes could improve the ability of caller ID to accurately identify the source of telemarketing calls or the ability of service providers to block calls
- Whether and how the FTC should amend the TSR to recognize or anticipate specific developments in technologies relating to transmission and use of caller ID
- Whether the rules should specify characteristics of caller ID phone numbers that telemarketers must transmit to require that the number, for example, be one that:
- appears in publicly available phone directories
- has an area code and prefix associated with the telemarketer’s physical location
- is answered by a live agent or automated service that identifies the telemarketer by name
- provides for prompt and easy communication with a live representative of the telemarketer, seller, or charitable organization
- corresponds to direct mail solicitations or other advertising (such as Internet or broadcast ads) as the phone number for the telemarketer, seller, or charitable organization
- Whether the TSR should allow a use of trade names or product names rather than actual name of the seller or telemarketer in the caller ID information
Comments in response to the ANPRM must be received by the FTC by Jan. 28, 2011. Please contact DWT if you are interested in knowing more about this proceeding or filing comments.