Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision to let stand a
lower-court ruling that telemarketers' rights to free speech are not
violated by the government's nationwide do-not-call list. The
plaintiffs, which included the American Teleservices Association,
had filed suit saying that restricting the rights of commercial
entities, but not political or charitable groups, unfairly
discriminated against their right to free speech. The lower court
rejected this argument and the Supreme Court today upheld the ruling
"We hold that the do-not-call registry is a valid commercial speech
regulation because it directly advances the government's important
interests in safeguarding personal privacy and reducing the danger
of telemarketing abuse without burdening an excessive amount of
speech," the Denver-based appeals court said.
The do-not-call list was created out of regulations adopted by the
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC). The regulations were adopted one year ago.
Telemarketers may be fined of up to $11,000 for calling any number
on the federal registry.
The American Teleservices Association, Mainstream Marketing Services
Inc. and TMG Marketing Inc. asked the Supreme Court to hear the
case. Their primary argument was that the list violated
telemarketers commercial free-speech rights, that it did not apply
to political and charitable solicitations, and that other, less
restrictive regulations already allow consumers to block calls they
do not wish to receive.
This decision by the appeals court overturned a federal judge�s
earlier ruling that found the list unconstitutional because,
although calls from politicians and charities were allowed, the list
barred commercial solicitations. According to the government,
commercial callers are more likely to take part in prospective and
abusive practices, hence the valid distinction.
Up to now, the FTC and the Federal Communications Commission, which
also polices the do-not-call list, have brought only a handful of
actions against telemarketers, according to Reuters.