July 25, 2003

A Form of Government Regulation with Few Critics

The coming of the Do Not Call registry:

Economist.com | The Do Not Call Registry: IT HAS been one of fastest commercial rebellions of all time. Since the National Do Not Call Registry was opened in late June, Americans have registered more than 27m telephone numbers. Any telemarketer who rings up one of those numbers after the system starts on October 1st will face fines of up to $11,000 per call. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) expects 60m residential phone lines--roughly a third of the total in America--to be registered within the first year.

The Do Not Call list is an odd mixture of technophilia and technophobia. It is certainly a sign of the potency of the internet; around 80% of the don't-call-me numbers were registered online. Yet it is also a shriek of fury against the invasiveness of modern marketing--and one the president understands. George Bush, whose administration is usually thought of as staunchly pro-business, inaugurated the measure at a White House ceremony.

Telemarketers are an easy target. They place around 65m calls a day, few of them welcome. The business, which brought in $100 billion in sales last year, was given a spurt in the late 1990s both by falling phone costs and by the introduction of computerised "predictive diallers". These dial lots of phone numbers at once and shunt aside disconnected lines, faxes and answering machines. Once the system works out that it has a live person on the line ("Hello? Hello?!"), it transfers the call to a salesman--or, infuriatingly, hangs up if none is available.

This simple procedure has increased the time operators spend talking to a human from 20 minutes per hour to almost 50 minutes, according to the FTC. But it had one small hitch: it drove customers mad and led to the Do Not Call Registry...

Posted by DeLong at July 25, 2003 01:35 PM | TrackBack


Some random comments.

*I don't know of anyone who likes getting telemarketing calls, with one exception: a telemarketer.

*I found that the "privacy manager" offered by Pac Bell effectively eliminated the problem of junk phone calls.

*An interview with a telemarketer provided some information about regional differences in the US. The junk phone caller said the most rude section of the US is the West followed by the East. The most polite: the South. Her last comment of the interview: "I dread calling phones in the West!"

Posted by: A. Zarkov on July 26, 2003 11:42 AM
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