WASHINGTON -- Without a whisper of dissent, the House has approved a bill to stop businesses from making annoying telemarketing calls and sending "junk fax" advertisements to phone subscribers who don't want to be bothered.
The legislation, which is opposed by the Bush administration but has not drawn a veto warning, could get final congressional approval this year since the Senate already has passed two similar measures to restrict the practice.
Discussions began late yesterday on how to reconcile the Senate and House bills into a compromise bill that could be passed by both chambers and sent to President Bush before the scheduled Thanksgiving adjournment date.
"Almost everyone in this room has been bothered by unwelcome calls, usually at dinner time, it seems," Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., said during House debate before the legislation sailed through on a voice vote.
Explaining the bill, Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., said that it would "let the public just say no to unwanted telephone advertisements" that are now being made with the aid of automatic rapid dialing machines that can together ring up 20 million people a day.
"Many Americans are fed up by advertising calls from strangers and robots," Markey told the House. He said that the bill would allow telephone customers to place themselves on "don't call me" lists.
In a statement of administration policy, the Office of Management and Budget said recently that the bill would bring "unnecessary regulation of commercial activities and could curtail technological innovation and eliminate legitimate business operations."
Marketing by telephone has expanded rapidly in recent years as lower costs and development of sophisticated, computer-driven telemarketing strategies have allowed calls to be made nationwide to a growing number of prospects.
Another provision of the bill would authorize the FCC to adopt restrictions on the use of fax machines or similar electronic devices in the sending of unsolicited advertisements. It would give the agency discretion in choosing the most cost-effective means of preventing fax advertising abuses.
The bill also would direct the FCC to require that fax machines used for unsolicited ads be equipped to identify the name of the sender and the sender's telephone number on the pages received by the prospective customer.