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Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2003 - 8:11 p.m.

U.S. Court Unplugs Anti-Telemarketing List

Wed September 24, 2003 02:42 PM ET
By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal court has blocked the national "do not call" list that would have allowed consumers to stop most unwanted telephone sales, one week before the much-anticipated measure was due to take effect.

The U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City said the Federal Trade Commission overstepped its authority when it set up the popular anti-telemarketing measure, according to a court decision filed late on Tuesday.

The measure would have enabled consumers to block most unsolicited sales calls by placing their home and mobile phone numbers on the no-call list, which would have taken effect on Oct. 1. Telemarketers would have faced fines of up to $11,000 per call if they called any of the 50 million phone numbers collected by the FTC.

Several telemarketing firms and the Direct Marketing Association sued to block the measure in January, saying it would violate free-speech laws and discriminate against an industry that provides millions of jobs.

In its decision, the court said existing laws give the FTC authority to curb abusive telemarketing practices, but that any national do-not-call list must be handled by the Federal Communications Commission.

The central issue raised by the lawsuit is "whether the FTC had the authority to promulgate a national do-not-call registry. The court finds it did not," Judge Lee West wrote.

The court upheld several other FTC rules limiting how telemarketers can use automatic-dialing software and trade customer lists.


"This decision is clearly incorrect," FTC Chairman Timothy Muris said in a written statement. "We will seek every recourse to give American consumers a choice to stop unwanted telemarketing calls."

Muris did not say whether the FTC would appeal the decision or turn over the list to the FCC. An FCC spokesman did not return several calls.

The DMA welcomed the decision and said consumers could sign up for its own, voluntary do-not-call list.

Lawmakers predicted the decision would be overturned quickly, arguing that they had given the FTC the proper authority when they approved the list in February.

"We are confident this ruling will be overturned and the nearly 50 million Americans who have signed up for the do-not-call list will remain free from unwanted telemarketing calls in the privacy of their own homes," Reps. Billy Tauzin and John Dingell said in a statement.

"I suspect the courthouse in Oklahoma would want to add itself to the 'Do Not Call' database in order to protect itself from the millions of consumers who feel deeply about the right to be left alone by telemarketers," Rep. Ed Markey said.

Another telemarketing trade group, the American Teleservices Association, has challenged the do-not-call list in a U.S. court in Denver.

At least 27 U.S. states have do-not-call lists of their own, which were not affected by the court's ruling.

"We do not expect this ruling to affect Oklahoma's list," a spokesman for the Oklahoma state's attorney general's office said.

(Ravyne's Note | Somehow I thought that would be too good to be true. Thank goodness for "caller id"!)

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Ravyne Is Moving - Friday, Oct. 17, 2003
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