updated 9/23/2003 1:45:33 PM ET 2003-09-23T17:45:33

About 40 million Americans are looking forward to October 1. That’s how many people signed up for the national Do Not Call Registry in an attempt to make sure they can eat dinner without being interrupted by calls from telemarketers.

But as October looms, telemarketers are feeling grim. The American Teleservices Association (ATA) predicts that 2 million people will lose their jobs when the Do Not Call list goes into effect, and some businesses may have to shut down entirely.

“We know that out of the 9,000 contact centers that are outsourced or on an outsourced basis, we have heard as many as 25 percent may have to shut down,” the ATA’s Tim Searcy said. “That is an unfathomable amount of commerce that is no longer going to exist.”

At TeleResponse in Philadelphia, they are getting ready to take a hit. The plan here is to shift and shrink. TeleResponse doesn’t know how many people will drop off their lists, so they are trying to bulk up their business-to-business service, and they’ve already had layoffs.

“We’ve actually had layoffs of over 100 people in January in combination of anticipating this and also the culmination of all the state do-not-call lists which have reduced the number of hours my company had on projects,” TeleResponse President Stuart Discount said. “So we’ve already gone through a major layoff — 20 percent of our force.”

But not everyone agrees that October will necessarily bring doom and gloom to the telemarketing industry. Some experts think the Do Not Call Registry will weed out the strong companies from the weak, leaving savvy companies to thrive.

“The companies that are most likely to bite the dust are those that are selling products and services that consumers really have very little need for,” Professor Ronald Goodstein of Georgetown University said.

“They are those companies that constantly change product hype and service hype as opposed to real product benefit for the customer. Those companies are very vulnerable right now, and I think they always should have been.

As for the consumers who expect their phones to stop ringing entirely on October 1, they will be disappointed. Experts say many calls will still be allowed, including those from marketing research firms, political campaigns and non-profit organizations.

© 2012 CNBC, Inc. All Rights Reserved


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