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National do-not-call list launched

By The Associated Press
06.27.03

WASHINGTON — President Bush launched a national do-not-call list today to stop unwanted telemarketing, saying the last thing people need at home "is a call from a stranger with a sales pitch."

"Unwanted telemarketing calls are intrusive, they are annoying, and they're all too common," Bush said at a White House ceremony.

People began registering just after midnight. As of this morning, Bush said 108 people per second were adding their phone numbers to the list.

Telemarketers attempt up to 104 million calls every day, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

The industry has said the registry will devastate their business and has sued the Federal Trade Commission, saying the program amounts to an unlawful restriction on free speech.

Consumers can register for the free government service by visiting the Web site www.donotcall.gov. Telephone registration using a toll-free number — 1/888-382-1222 — is available in states west of the Mississippi River, including Minnesota and Louisiana, starting today, and nationwide by July 7, the FTC said.

"When Americans are sitting down to dinner or a parent is reading to his or her child, the last thing that they need is a call from a stranger with a sales pitch," Bush said. "So we're taking practical action to address this problem."

The list will block about 80% of telemarketing calls, said FTC Chairman Timothy Muris.

"People own their homes and their phones and now they will have a choice about whether they want the calls," Muris said in an interview.

Telephone registration is being done in stages to ensure the system can handle the volume of calls expected, the FTC said. The commission expects up to 60 million phone numbers to be registered in the first year.

People who sign up this summer should see a decrease in telemarketing calls after the FTC begins enforcing the do-not-call list on Oct. 1. Registrations will have to be renewed every five years.

On the Web site, people will have to provide the phone number they want protected and an e-mail address to receive confirmation. Consumers calling the toll-free number will have to call from the telephone number they want to register.

The FCC voted 5-0 yesterday to add its authority to the do-not-call list, blocking telemarketing calls from within a state — the FTC could only police interstate calls — and from industries whose calls the agency regulates, including airlines, banks and telephone companies.

Of the states with do-not-call lists, 13 plan to add their lists of 8.1 million numbers to the national registry this summer, three have legislation pending to allow them to share, and 11 will not share the information, the FTC said. Consumers on state lists added to the national one need not register again.

Beginning in September, telemarketers will have to check the list every three months to see who doesn't want to be called. Those who call listed people could be fined up to $11,000 for each violation. Consumers would file complaints to an automated phone or online system.

Exemptions from the list include calls from charities, pollsters and on behalf of politicians. Registered consumers also can give written permission to get calls from certain companies.

A company also may call someone on the no-call list if that person has bought, leased or rented from the company within the past 18 months. Telemarketers also may call people if they have inquired about or applied for something from the company during the past three months.

But consumers can avoid those calls by asking to be put on an individual company's do-not-call list.

Congress authorized the FTC to collect up to $18.1 million from telemarketers to pay the program's expenses in the first year.


Update
Federal judge puts future of do-not-call list in doubt
Court says FTC doesn't have authority to oversee national registry, prompting lawmakers to begin working on legislation to ensure service goes into effect as scheduled. 09.25.03

Previous
President signs bill creating national 'do-not-call' list
Law allows FTC to collect fees from telemarketers to fund registry; industry group filed lawsuit last month charging the registry unlawfully restricts free speech. 03.12.03

Related

High court: Telemarketers don't have right to deceive donors

Unanimous ruling makes clear that while fund-raisers have leeway to keep quiet about high costs of running charity drives, they may not lie about it. 05.05.03

Telemarketers file second suit over do-not-call list
Industry group, which already sued FTC to block national registry, asks 10th Circuit to reject FCC's new regulations. 07.31.03

Telemarketing still enjoys First Amendment protection
By Tony Mauro Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the unanimous Court, said that liability could coexist with free speech. 05.12.03

Telemarketing

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