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Hang-Ups with the Do Not Call List

WASHINGTON (AFP eWire - Oct. 6, 2003) - The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) is closely monitoring the ongoing court battles over the National Do Not Call Registry in order to ensure that charities maintain their rights to make telephone solicitations.

The Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) National Do Not Call Registry was scheduled to take effect on Oct. 1. However, a Sept. 25 court ruling by the U.S. District Court in Denver declared the registry in violation of the First Amendment.

Although charities were exempt from the national registry, AFP is particularly concerned about the ruling, in which U.S. District Judge Edward W. Nottingham said that charitable solicitations are just as intrusive and unwanted as commercial calls.

By exempting charities from the national registry, the FTC has 'imposed a content-based limitation' on what calls consumers can ban, the judge said. Because the FTC did not give consumers the right to ban charitable solicitation calls through the national registry, the government has placed a restriction on speech, the ruling stated.

Despite the ruling, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has promised that it will continue to administer and enforce its rules as much as it can amidst the confusion. In addition, the Direct Marketing Association has urged its members to not call the millions of people who have signed up for the Do Not Call Registry.

AFP is also monitoring related cases at the state level. At least 15 states have Do Not Call lists. It's unclear what effect recent court decisions will have on the state lists. As states attempt to place restrictions on telemarketing and direct marketing, association staff continues to follow the issues to ensure that charities aren't adversely affected.

Rules that remain in effect

The Do Not Call registry is just one of several amendments to the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule, which regulates how telemarketers can interact with the public. The amendments contained several changes that have not been affected by recent court decisions.

Although charities are exempt from the rules, for-profit fundraisers working on a charity's behalf must adhere to them. The rules state that:

  • Individuals can only be called between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Individuals must promptly be told - before making a pitch - the identity of the charity and that the call is a charitable solicitation.
  • All material information about the solicitation must be disclosed.
  • Deception about any terms of the gift/solicitation is strictly prohibited.

The most important new rule requires for-profit fundraisers to honor individual do not call requests. If an individual asks to not be called by a particular charity, that charity and/or for-profit acting on its behalf must comply and ensure that the individual is not contacted again.

The Telemarketing Sales Rule also restricts unauthorized billing (telemarketers must receive an individual's informed consent before billing charges), limits abandoned calls or 'dead air' time and requires telemarketers to transmit their telephone number and if possible, their name, to an individual's caller I.D. service.

AFP will continue to monitor the Do Not Call court cases and keep members updated.

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