Do-Not-Call List Rift

2002/1/23 Telemarketers working, on texture, partial graphic
AP
Some telemarketers are taking their fight over the government's popular do-not-call list to the Supreme Court, but the industry's largest group decided Wednesday to bow out of the legal battle.

The Direct Marketing Association decided not to pursue further litigation over the national registry that blocks unwanted sales calls.

"The telephone marketing industry remains committed to respecting the wishes of those who have placed their household telephone numbers on the do-not-call list," said H. Robert Wientzen, president and CEO of the New York-based group. DMA represents nearly 4,700 companies that sell products over the phone, online and through the mail.

But the American Teleservices Association said it will ask the Supreme Court to review a decision by a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upholding the list.

"We believe that the rights to free speech are being unduly trampled under the guise of consumer protection, and now we'll take our appeal to the highest level," said Tim Searcy, executive director of the Indianapolis-based ATA, which represents 650 firms in the teleservices industry. He estimates 2 million industry jobs will be lost due to the do-not-call list.

The Federal Trade Commission, which oversees the registry, said it wasn't surprised the ATA decided to continue with its challenge.

"It's certainly its right to do so, but we're confident our winning streak will continue and it's far from clear whether the Supreme Court would take such a case," said Lois Greisman, an associate director at the FTC.

The list, established in October, allows consumers to register their home or cell phone numbers. Telemarketers who contact people who say they don't want to be called face fines of up to $11,000 for each violation.

The 10th Circuit ruled last month that the registry, which now has more than 57 million numbers, is a legitimate safeguard against "the danger of telemarketing abuse." It dismissed claims that the list violates free speech rights and is unfair to business.

The decision overturned a lower court ruling by U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham, who said the registry violated free-speech rights by barring calls from businesses but not charities and political organizations.

By Jennifer C. Kerr