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Johanne Torres[October 4, 2004]

U.S. Supreme Court Lets Stand Federal Do-Not-Call List

BY TRACEY SCHELMETIC, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, CUSTOMER INTERACTION SOLUTIONS MAGAZINE


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 as constitutional.

 

"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.

 

Tracey Schelmetic is the Editorial Director for Customer Interaction Solutions Magazine. She welcomes your comments.

 

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