Bush's signature, and the decision a short time earlier by the Federal Communications Commission to enforce the do-not-call rules, clears the registry to go into effect Wednesday as scheduled.
The registry makes it illegal for telemarketers to call the more than 50 million consumers who signed up for the list, and provides for stiff fines for each violation beginning Oct. 1. Its existence was called into question last week, when the courts said the Federal Trade Commission didn't have the authority to create the list. While that put the registry - and actions against unwanted telemarketing calls - into confusion, Congress quickly wrote and approved a new bill that gives the FTC authority.
But as Bush was to sign the bill, FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell announced his agency would administer the regulations pending an appeal by the FTC.
"The [Federal Communications] Commission intends to continue to administer and enforce its rules to the fullest extent possible as the litigation proceeds," said Powell. "The Commission remains committed and determined to defend the choices of the American people."
It wasn't clear how long the appeal would last but the FCC said it was going to start enforcing the registry on schedule beginning Wednesday.
Bush signed the newly approved bill into law in a ceremony Monday afternoon at the White House. In attendance were U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, U.S. Rep. Bill Tauzin, R-La., and U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. The president applauded their efforts in working quickly, with a 95-0 vote in the Senate and the House 412-8.
"While many good people work in the telemarketing industry, the public is understandably losing patience with these unwanted phone calls, unwanted intrusions," said Bush. "And given a choice, Americans prefer not to receive random sales calls pitches at all hours of the day. And the American people should be free to restrict these calls."
The Direct Marketing Association said it seemed that with the FCC's decision to enforce the rules made the do-not-call registry in effect on Oct. 1. The DMA, which bills itself as the nation's largest trade association for telemarketers, continued to call on its members and the rest of the industry to comply with consumers' wishes for no calls.
"Our first priority has always been to ensure that consumers' wishes are respected," said Jerry Cerasale, The DMA's senior vice president for government affairs. "Today's action by the FCC may raise new legal questions, but it appears that this will become the law of the land on Oct. 1. In any event, we will work to the extent of our powers to ensure that the wishes of consumers will be honored."