Judge Hangs Up on Do-Not-Call List

A federal judge disconnected the National Do Not Call Registry, telling the Federal Trade Commission had gone beyond its authority. The ruling throws into doubt the adoption of the do-not-call list, which was scheduled to go into effect Oct. 1.

U.S. District Judge Lee R. West decided that the FTC, which had been directed by Congress in 1994 to stop abusive telemarketing, had legal authority when it decided to implement the do-not-call list.

"The court finds that it did not," West wrote.

The ruling was hailed by the Direct Marketing Association, which noted that it still respected the wishes of the millions of consumers who have said loud and clear that they don't want to be bothered by telemarketers. The ruling was rued by the FTC, which has said it will appeal.

In a statement Wednesday, the FTC noted that Congress passed the Do Not Call Implementation Act in February that authorized the FCC to collect fees from telemarketers to implement the do-not-call list. President Bush signed the bill in March. FTC Chairman Timothy Muris denied the FTC had overstepped its authority.

"This decision is clearly incorrect," Muris said. "We will seek every recourse to give American consumers a choice to stop unwanted telemarketing calls." The FTC filed for a stay pending appeal of the decision.

Meanwhile, the DMA said it and others were happy the court ruled in favor of them. But they said they didn't necessarily know what the judge's ruling meant, saying it would work with its lawyers, the FTC and others over its implications.

"The DMA, however, acknowledges the wishes of millions of U.S. consumers who have expressed their preference not to receive telephone-marketing solicitations," the DMA said in a prepared statement. But it said that since 1985, the DMA's national no-call system called the Telephone Preference Service had been an option.

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