WASHINGTON - Politicians finally have found an issue they all can agree on: Telemarketers calling at dinnertime are a scourge that must be repulsed.
Congress yesterday sent President Bush two bills that would make permanent a program to protect consumers from unwanted phone calls from telemarketers. Its hallmark is the national "do not call" list.
"This initiative has proven to be one of the most popular laws in history," Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D., N.C.) said. Extending the program was necessary "to avoid the wrath of millions of angry constituents."
The Do Not Call Registry, initiated in 2003, has been widely acclaimed for allowing Americans to eat their suppers in peace. Some 150 million people have listed their phones on the registry, which prohibits calls from telemarketers.
The House passed by voice vote and sent the President a bill to make permanent the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to collect fees to run the program.
Telemarketers pay annual fees of up to $17,050 and must search the registry every month and drop the phone numbers of consumers who have registered from call lists.
The Senate later approved by a voice vote and sent to the White House a bill, promoted by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D., N.D.), to make the list permanent, overturning an FTC rule that people reregister their phone numbers every five years.