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Posted in Consumer Privacy

FTC Seeks Comment on Strengthening the Caller ID Provisions of its Telemarketing Sales Rule

On December 7, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) seeking comment on how to address telemarketing practices designed to circumvent existing Caller ID rules, and how to make Caller ID a more useful tool for screening unwanted calls. 

The FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) currently requires telemarketers to provide consumers who use Caller ID services with either the telemarketer’s telephone number or the number of the seller or charitable organization represented by the telemarketer. These rules are designed to encourage accountability and enable the FTC and law enforcement agencies to identify improper telemarketing practices (e.g., calling numbers from the Do Not Call registry). The FTC has initiated numerous enforcement actions in recent years, charging telemarketers with concealing their identities from consumers by using advanced technologies to block, “spoof,” or manipulate the names and numbers that appear on Caller ID. 

The ANPR seeks comments on a number of Caller ID issues, including:

  • How widespread is consumer use of Caller ID services?
  • Do consumers use other services, such as call-blocking equipment, to avoid unwanted calls?
  • Would changes to the TSR improve the ability of Caller ID or other services to disclose the source of telemarketing calls or otherwise block calls?
  • Should the Caller ID provisions recognize or anticipate certain developments in telecommunications technologies related to the transmission and use of Caller ID information? 
  • Should the Caller ID provisions specify the characteristics of the phone number that a telemarketer must transmit to a Caller ID service? For example, the FTC could require that the phone number transmitted be one that is listed in publicly available phone directories, be one with an area code and prefix that are associated with the physical location of the telemarketer’s place of business, be one that is answered by a live representative, or be such that an automated service can identify the telemarketer by name.
  • Should the Caller ID provisions allow the use of trade names or product names (instead of the actual name of the seller or telemarketer) in Caller ID displays?
  • Should the FTC further harmonize its Caller ID provisions with the regulations promulgated by the FCC pursuant to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act? 

Comments on the ANPR are due on or before January 28, 2011.

(A special thanks to Aaron George for his assistance in preparing this entry.)