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Do-Not-Call List to Hurt Telemarketing Industry

Aired June 27, 2003 - 19:09   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: Well, in other news today, Americans wasted no time today signing up for a new national do-not-call list. Did you sign up?
The national list is similar to lists already maintained by a number of states. It allows consumers to put their numbers off limits to telemarketers, and hundreds of thousands of people signed up today, or at least they tried to, during the opening hours of registration.

Bruce Burkhardt has details.


BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is one of those issues that politicians love because almost everyone feels the same way about it.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Americans are sitting down to dinner or a parent is reading to his or her child, the last thing they need is a call from a stranger with a sales pitch.

BURKHARDT: So, a lot of Americans are banking on this new federal registry to make our peaceful hours at home actually peaceful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I look forward to the ideas that when the phone rings, it'll be someone I want to speak with.

BURKHARDT (on camera): Our long, national frustration may finally be over.

To avoid those pesky usually early evening calls from telemarketers, all you have to do is this. Go to, and place your phone number on the registry.

I hope our long national frustration isn't replaced by another long national frustration!

(voice-over): Well, in defense of the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission, who partnered up to create this national registry, this is the first day of the web site, and its probably a bit overwhelmed at the moment.

But there are other ways; you can call a toll-free number to register. Right now, only available to those living west of the Mississippi, but shortly a nationwide number will be available.

Of course, you may like getting those calls. You don't have to sign up, but judge from the response today, the telemarketers might have no one left to telemarket to.

Bruce Burkhardt, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: Well, joining us to discuss the national do-not-call list, "Fortune" magazine editor-at-large Andy Serwer.

Andy, so there was this big announcement in the rose Bush -- in the Rose Garden today?

ANDY SERWER, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, "FORTUNE": Yes, I mean, and there was a little irony there.

I mean, first of all I wondered why was President Bush taking time out of his busy day to have this big announcement? And then I realized it's a political lay-up, Anderson. I mean, motherhood, hot dogs, the do-not-call list. Who could possibly be against this?

COOPER: Perfect for the coming holiday weekend.

SERWER: Yes, exactly. But if you think about it and you check out who was actually exempted from the do-not-call list, things come to mind here.

First of all, politicians can still call you up. So while President Bush is against it, the Republican National Committee, the Democrats, can call you up. And look here, you've got pollsters, charities, maybe that's OK. And here's what's really interesting, Anderson. All of these companies that you've done business with can call you, as well. Talk about a loophole here.

COOPER: Yes, it's a huge loophole and long-distance companies, as you said, it's politicians. But there are a lot of people from the telemarketing industry who say, look, this is going to put, they say, as many as two million people out of work.

SERWER: Well, right. I mean, they'd banding about these numbers. They say 6.5 million people work in the telemarketing industry. I mean, that sounds kind of high to me. They're probably including all the guys in the warehouse putting the Chia Pets in the boxes and stuff.

But the call centers themselves...

COOPER: Is that what you bought?

SERWER: Yes, that's what I bought.

The call centers do employ a lot of people, and actually a lot of them are minorities, women, actually disabled people work there. And there's no question this business is going to be hurt by this new measure and it will shrink and people will lose jobs. I mean, that's an important consideration, I think.

COOPER: Do you think the fine thing is actually going to work? Does this thing really have any teeth to it?

SERWER: Well, you know, you have to wonder about that. We're going to find out in the fall.

COOPER: They say it could cost up to $11,000.

SERWER: Eleven thousand dollars. And you have to call up another phone number and go into another Web site. This is in the fall; this won't take place. It remains to be seen.

But with that giant loophole we were talking about, because the phone companies, I get most of my calls from phone companies and they all do business with me. So they're not going to be on the list. And same with the credit card companies. So I think it's going to kind of tough to enforce this actually.

COOPER: And you actually don't mind getting telemarketing calls?

SERWER: I don't mind. I like playing around with them. Hang up on them, you know.

COOPER: The counter-argument to all this is, you know, this must work. I mean, people must buy this stuff that telemarketers call about. So some people clearly want this.

SERWER: Right. And there's two kinds of people. I mean, people who clearly like to buy this way and then there are people who say they don't buy but they actually do and that's what they're complaining about. Because those are the people who are going to put their names on the list and remove themselves from the business of these people.

COOPER: All right, we'll see what impact it has. Andy Serwer, thanks very much.

SERWER: Thanks.


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