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This is welcome news.

Justices Affirm Do-Not-Call Ruling

Monday, October 4, 2004; 10:46 AM

The Supreme Court Monday let stand a lower-court ruling that telemarketers' rights to free speech are not violated by the government's nationwide do-not-call list.

Without comment, the justices rejected an appeal by commercial telemarketers against the lower-court ruling, which upheld as constitutional the popular program in which consumers can put their names on a list if they do not want to be called by telemarketers.

“We hold that the do-not-call registry is a valid commercial speech regulation because it directly advances the government's important interests in safeguarding personal privacy and reducing the danger of telemarketing abuse without burdening an excessive amount of speech,” the appeals court said.

The Denver-based appeals court overturned a decision by a federal judge who ruled the list unfairly discriminated against commercial speech.

The do-not-call list stemmed from regulations adopted by the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission. The program went into effect a year ago and subjects telemarketers to fines of up to $11,000 for calling a number on the list.

The American Teleservices Association, Mainstream Marketing Services Inc. and TMG Marketing Inc. asked the Supreme Court to hear the case.

The telemarketers argued that the list violated their commercial free-speech rights, that it unfairly did not apply to political and charitable solicitations, and that less restrictive regulations already allow consumers to block unwanted calls.

“This case is a cautionary example of what happens when federal agencies allow perceived political imperatives to override constitutional concerns,” Robert Corn-Revere, an attorney representing the telemarketers, said in the appeal.

The Justice Department replied that the appeals court decision was correct and that the appeal should be rejected.

Acting Solicitor General Paul Clement said telemarketing has become a multibillion-dollar business over the past two decades. “It has also become a growing intrusion into everyday life,” he told the justices.

About 62 million phone numbers had been entered on the do-not-call list as of June, he said.

Clement said the regulations do not establish a government-imposed ban on speech that some people might want to hear. “The regulations establish a framework to enforce consumers' own choices about commercial speech and telephone privacy in their homes,” he said.

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