WASHINGTON (AP) – Almost 25 million phone numbers were added to the federal government’s Do Not Call list in fiscal 2006, demonstrating that more and more Americans don’t want their dinners disturbed by telemarketers.

The national Do Not Call registry had 132 million phone numbers as of September 2006, a 23 percent increase from the previous year, the Federal Trade Commission said in a report released Thursday.

Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection, has cited the humorist Dave Barry’s observation that Do Not Call is “the most popular government program since the Elvis stamp.”

Consumers can add their numbers to the list, created after Congress passed legislation in 2003, through a government Web site or by calling a toll-free number. But early adopters will have to go through the process again in about a year since numbers added to the list expire after five years.

The agency said the program’s primary goal of reducing unwanted telemarketing calls is succeeding, largely due to a “high degree of compliance by telemarketers.” The report notes that while roughly 1.15 million complaints were received in fiscal 2006 from 374,937 registered phone numbers, that was the equivalent of only about one-quarter of 1 percent of the numbers in the database.

The FTC has taken enforcement actions in 28 cases since the program’s inception, resulting in $7.6 million in penalties and $8.2 million in redress payments and forfeitures.

Most of those penalties were paid by DirecTV Group Inc., a satellite television provider, as part of the largest settlement reached in the program’s history. DirecTV agreed to pay $5.3 million in December 2005 to settle charges that it and several telemarketing companies it hired had allegedly called numbers on the Do Not Call list. The company said then that it had stopped working with those telemarketers and taken steps to avoid calling numbers on the list.

Telemarketers are required to pay an annual subscription fee to access the FTC list so those numbers can be blocked from their dial-out programs. The companies also must update their own calling lists every 31 days to ensure there are no numbers from the registry on it. Organizations engaged in charitable, political or survey work are exempt.

The FTC’s report said that 6,824 companies and other entities paid $21.7 million in fees to access the database in fiscal year 2006. All told, 15,218 entities have paid $59 million in fees to access the database since the program’s inception.

On the Net:

Do Not Call Registry: www.donotcall.gov

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