Washington Report 032003

Date Published: 
Original Author: 
Robert M. Fells
Original Publication: 
ICCFA Magazine

Update on the Dodd Bill 

by Robert M. Fells, Esq., general counsel
The ICFA has continued to pursue discussions with the staff of Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) who introduced a bill in the closing days of the 107th Congress to regulate the death care industry. Although the bill, S. 3168, and its House companion, H.R. 5743, expired when Congress adjourned in November, the ICFA understands that Dodd is planning to reintroduce the bill in the near future.
Regardless of its provisions, the ICFA has stated that the introduction of any federal legislation is premature until the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, has published its report and recommendations. (See the November Washington Report for more information.)
Among other things, the Dodd bill creates a private right of action for individuals to sue funeral homes, cemeteries, crematories, monument retailers and others; prohibits any form of telemarketing and door-to-door selling; and provides unlimited cancellation rights with full refunds, plus interest, on prepaid contracts. The bill also seeks to codify the FTC Funeral Rule, thereby politicizing it and taking control of it away from the commission.

Amended Telemarketing Sales Rule 

On January 29, the Federal Trade Commission announced that its amended Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) would become effective on March 31. However, the effective dates of two provisions in the TSR were delayed. The requirement that telemarketers use caller ID to identify themselves has been delayed for a year.
More importantly, the requirement to use the new national "Do Not Call" registry has been delayed pending funding authorization from Congress, followed by at least seven months until the system is operational. (See the February Washington Report for more information on the amended TSR.) The FTC will announce specific compliance dates concerning these two provisions in the future.
The TSR applies only to phone calls made interstate, though another agency, the Federal Communications Commission, is considering a "Do Not Call" list that could cover intrastate calls as well.
The ICFA has been instrumental in obtaining and preserving an exemption in the TSR for appointment calls that are followed by face-to-face meetings. However, in deciding to maintain the face-to-face exemption, the FTC added several conditions, including the "Do Not Call" list and Caller ID requirements and prohibitions against using threats, intimidation and profane/obscene language; annoying or harassing individuals by continuous or repeating calling; blocking caller ID; and calling before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. local time.
For complete details on TSR compliance, check the FTC Web site at www.ftc.gov.