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Public Statements

Ratifying the Do-Not-Call Registry

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PRYOR. Mr. President, I rise today to support legislation that would clearly allow the Federal Trade Commission to move forward with its national do-not-call registry. I have submitted an amendment to that effect, amendment No. 1786 to the DC appropriations bill, as well as cosponsored S. 1652, a bill to ratify the do-not-call registry provision of the telemarketing sales rule. As we have heard today, the U.S. District Court in Oklahoma issued a decision that the Federal
Trade Commission lacked the authority to develop its national do-not-call list. The court ruled that, although Congress appropriated the funds to the FTC in order to have the program, it did not actually have the language necessary to authorize the establishment of the program and the implementation of the program.

Today, I rise in support of my proposal that would basically give the Federal Trade Commission the clear authority and the statutory responsibility to establish a national do-not-call program. In addition, it affirms the finding that the Federal Trade Commission was authorized in the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act to implement and enforce the national do-not-call registry.

Last, it specifically ratifies the do-not-call registry provision of the FTC's telemarketing sales rule.

Before I was elected to this august body, I had the great privilege of being the attorney general of my State. I remember back in 1998 when I ran for attorney general of Arkansas, everywhere I would go, every little town I would go into, and every time I would talk to a group, whether it was veterans or whoever it happened to be, senior citizens or townspeople at large, they would tell me: Please, please, if you can do anything about telemarketers calling us at home and bothering us and trying to sell us something over the telephone, do it.

I was proud to do that. When I was elected to the office and began serving in January of 1999, the first thing I did was pull the staff together at the attorney general's office and write the State's do-not-call program. It was very different from the one the Federal Trade Commission came up with but both are equally good. They both get to the problem and I think can be very effective fighting against unwanted telephone calls.

Listen, we have all been there. We have all received those calls. We have all been eating dinner, trying to put our children down, trying to do homework, or watching our favorite TV show, whatever the situation might be, when we have been subjected to these unwanted calls. For most people it is an inconvenience. They don't like to be bothered. They want us to find a way to respect the integrity of the privacy of their own homes. After all, they are paying the phone bill; they are paying for the service. They should be able to have some control on the amount of calls coming in and to put a stop to these unwanted calls. Some of the phone companies actually offer a service that blocks calls from people who block their caller ID. That is another subject. That can be fairly expensive for some consumers. It's not always expensive.

The Federal Trade Commission came up with an idea to do this nationwide, to do it free, and to do it by use of toll-free numbers and Web sites allowing people to sign on. In fact, I signed on in the first week because one thing I noticed in Virginia is they do not have do-not-call laws, as far as I can tell, and we get bombarded in our home in Virginia. Unlike in Arkansas where we signed up for the AG's list and we may get one or two telemarketing calls a month, in Virginia we get 3 or 4 a day, and it seems they always try to call at an inopportune time.

One thing I noticed, one fact that apparently is true, as I understand it, the Federal Trade Commission now has 50 million phone numbers that have been registered under the Federal do-not-call program. Fifty million Americans can't be wrong.
They want relief. They want us, as their lawmakers, as their elected Representatives here in Washington, to do something to stop these calls.

The Federal Trade Commission, to its credit, and I appreciate them greatly for doing this, tried to come to their aid, come to their assistance, to make a national do-not-call registry a reality.

I think this is something the Nation is ready for. Fifty million people have already tried to sign up in the first few weeks after the announcement of the national do-not-call program. It is something we as Members of this body and as Members of the Congress, of the Federal Government, should try to do to ensure that the people of this country, if they want it, on a voluntary basis, can have some relief from unwanted telemarketing calls.

Congress mandated that this list be implemented on a national scale, and the President signed it into law. The legislation I am proposing now clarifies our intentions, and I certainly ask my colleagues to support the legislation in any way they can.
I hope we will have a vote on this matter in very quick order.

With that, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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