Ruling unravels U.S. do-not-call list

Published on

The Boston Herald

A federal judge yesterday struck down the national do-not-call registry slated to take effect Oct. 1, ruling the Federal Trade Commission had no authority to create the list.

The FTC immediately appealed the decision, and outraged lawmakers pledged to enact legislation that would give regulators the necessary authority to enforce the ban on telemarketing calls to about 50 million Americans who’ve put their name on the list.

“The question will finally either be settled by Congress or the Supreme Court,” said Jamie Court, executive director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

The ruling won’t affect Massachusetts’ do-not-call registry, which has accumulated 1.67 million phone lines since going into effect Jan. 1 – more than 50 percent of the state’s 2.8 million phone lines, said Michael Caljouw, the office’s deputy director and general counsel.

“It will have absolutely no impact on Massachusetts consumers,” he said. That statement was echoed by a spokesman for Attorney General Tom Reilly, whose office is responsible for enforcement.

U.S. District Judge Lee R. West ruled that existing laws give the FTC the authority to curb abusive telemarketing practices, but not the authority to establish the no-call list, which he said must be handled by the Federal Communications Commission.

Some said the ruling by West in an Oklahoma court amounts to little more than a hiccup. The law has been wildly popular and political leaders are expected to line up behind making sure it takes effect.

Still, Court said the ruling may embolden telemarketers to ignore state no-call laws. “There may also be lawsuits challenging them.”

The Direct Marketing Association said it was “grateful” for the ruling, but acknowledged the wishes of millions of U.S. consumers who don’t want to receive telephone marketing solicitations.

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