The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday said it would reassess its rules for telemarketers, bolstering an effort to help consumers avoid telephone sales calls at home.
FCC officials said growing consumer frustration had prompted the agency to consider whether it should throw its weight behind a proposed "do-not-call" list, which would enable consumers to prevent telemarketers from calling them.
The do-not-call list, currently being developed by the Federal Trade Commission, would probably take effect next year.
FCC support would mean that banks and telecommunications companies, two of the biggest telemarketers, would be required to comply along with other businesses.
The FCC said it would seek public input for 60 days before determining whether to go ahead, but several commissioners said they were inclined to support the proposal.
"Unrestricted telemarketing has gone beyond being a nuisance and has become in many instances an invasion of privacy," Commissioner Michael Copps said.
Current regulations, drafted by the FCC in 1992, prohibit telemarketers from calling before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. and require them to honor consumer requests not to be called back.
Since then, the industry has thrived thanks to new technologies such as automatic dialers, which allow sales representatives to reach many more customers. Telemarketers place 104 million calls each day and take in $278 billion annually, according to FCC and industry sources.
Several states have created do-not-call lists, and the FTC is expected to complete its work on a national list by the end of the year.
Under the FTC plan, consumers would call an automated toll-free number to get on the list.
Telemarketers would be required to check the list monthly and pay up to $3,000 to cover operating costs.
Companies that did not comply would face fines of up to $11,000 per count. Political, religious and nonprofit calls would be exempt.