Joe writes in to point out DirecTV’s wonderfully creative interpretation of the Do Not Call register:
DirecTV is defending automated sales calls to Do Not Call List subscribers as “informational,” and “not telemarketing.” The satellite TV provider recently called customers to say: “Because you are on our Do Not Call List, we can’t call you with all of our super-awesome special promotions.”
This sounds eminently reasonable to me. After all, the promotions were super-awesome. If they were only slightly awesome, I can understand why some people might not want to hear about them. But super-awesome promotions—if anything, it’d be wrong not to let people know about those. Faced with that dilemma, DirecTV’s only ethical choice was to have a computer dial people at home who had explicitly asked not to be bothered and play them an automated sales message.
DirecTV response is via their lawyer Rose Foley, who stresses that since the calls were “informational,” they “fall outside the scope of the Telemarketing Sales Rule and related federal and state laws and regulations governing telemarketing sales practices.” I have to say, I am looking forward to hearing Rose explain the precise informational nature of the phrase “super-awesome.” That’s going to be pure entertainment.
If I was running PR here, though, I think I would put Rose back in her cage and reach for the mea culpa. I’d issue a public apology and explain that the real problem is that here at DirecTV, we’re just so gosh darned excited about our specials, we sometimes forget that not everyone feels that way.
Because the only alternative is that DirecTV knew exactly what it was doing, having being previously fined $5.3 million for telemarketing to people on the Do Not Call list, and it weighed the likely punishment versus the potential sales benefit, valued the time and goodwill of people on the receiving end of these calls as zero cost, and decided it was worth breaking the law. Of course, in this far-fetched scenario, the only reasonable response by the FTC would be to correct this economic imbalance by fining the almighty bejeezus out of them. If $5.3 million doesn’t do the trick, it would have to see if ten or twenty million balances that equation. “Sorry, DirecTV,” the FTC would say. “But clearly regular penalties are insufficient. The only penalties left are… super-awesome!”