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Can You Hear Me Now?

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We certainly can understand why insurance companies and agents are concerned about a rule handed down by the Federal Communications Commission that will effectively gag many of their telemarketing pitches–even those to personal referrals and current clients.

Unlike an earlier rule by the Federal Trade Commission that exempted the insurance industry from do-not-call requirements, the FCCs new rule includes the industry.

Telemarketing is crucial to many agency-prospecting campaigns. Agents certainly should do whatever they can to overturn the FCCs move–either by convincing FCC officials to change their minds, making their case to Congress or taking their complaint to court.

However, we would inject a word of caution here. The tide clearly has turned against the flood of direct marketing. States such as New York already had restricted pitch calls before the federal government put its do-not-call list in place. The consumer backlash against commercial solicitations is spilling over into demands for restrictions on Web “spam” as well.

Agents and other telemarketers might be able to stave off regulations for a period of time, but with people sick and tired of getting phone pitches in their homes at all hours and having their e-mail boxes crammed with spam, government action appears inevitable.

What insurance and other industries should do is prepare themselves to negotiate compromises placing reasonable restrictions on solicitations that respect the needs of consumers, while preserving the ability to make legitimate pitches for their valuable products and services. Pleas for total freedom from government restrictions over phone and e-mail pitches are likely to fall on deaf ears.

Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, August 11, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.