telemarketing, the practice of selling goods or services to customers by means of the telephone or of surveying consumer preferences in telephone conversations. Telemarketing firms use trained staff and automatic, rapid-dial equipment to make the telephone calls; when conducting surveys, telemarketers generally use a script that is designed to elicit only a small range of responses. U.S. advertising and marketing firms spent $110.5 billion on telemarketing in 1999; by the end of the 1990s the value of goods and services sold by telephone had reached $150 billion in the United States and $750 billion worldwide. Telemarketing, also called telephone solicitation, is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and state agencies. Many of the regulations concerning telemarketing are targeted at combating fraud. The Direct Marketing Association (a marketing industry group) and many states maintain do-not-call lists that are designed to reduce the number of unsolicited telemarketing calls people receive. A move by the Federal Trade Commission to establish (2003) a national do-not-call list was challenged in the courts.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.