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Stung by fed crackdown, telemarketers go door-to-door

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Some telemarketers are going door-to-door to make sales rather than trying cold calls since new federal regulations limiting their activities have taken effect.

At least two companies operating in Iowa said they're out pounding the pavement.

"We're already going out door-to-door, and if we have to do more to get our message out, I'm sure we will," said Lee Ann James, regional government relations manager for Mediacom. "But we believe consumers have every right not to be called on the telephone if they don't want to be."

The Federal Trade Commission's do-not-call list is intended to block many unwanted telemarketing calls. It was launched shortly after midnight last Friday and by 5 p.m. EDT that day, 735,000 phone numbers had been registered.

Jim Summers, regional marketing manager of TruGreen ChemLawn, said 14 callers were making 14,000 calls a week from Davenport for the lawn care specialty company in its peak telemarketing period just before spring. He said the company was already doing some door-to-door sales, which were going well.

"Our sales people can come to your house, analyze your lawn personally and talk with you about solutions," said Summers, who is based in the Davenport office, which is headquarters for a region that extends along the Mississippi River from northern Missouri to southern Wisconsin. "I don't think many people are going to be unhappy about that."

The service will block about 80 percent of the calls, the FTC has said.

Beginning in September, telemarketers will have to check the list every three months to see who doesn't want to be called. Those who call listed people could be fined up to $11,000 for each violation. Consumers would file complaints to an automated phone or online system.

Exemptions from the list include calls from charities, pollsters and on behalf of politicians. Registered consumers also can give written permission to get calls from certain companies.

A company also may call someone on the no-call list if that person has bought, leased or rented from the company within the past 18 months. Telemarketers also may call people if they have inquired about or applied for something from the company during the past three months.

But if a consumer asks a company not to call, that business must stop or face penalties.

"We were all wondering what this might do to our business, but by the time everything is implemented, we don't think the new rules will hurt that much," Summers said. "We'll find a way to get to customers, one way or another, whether it is through door-to-door, direct mail, or advertising."

On the Net: Do-not-call Web site: www.donotcall.gov

Consumers can register by calling the toll-free number 1-888-382-1222, which is available in states west of the Mississippi River, including Minnesota and Louisiana.

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