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Do Not Call on hold

This is annoying – a federal judge has ruled that the FTC lacks the authority to enforce the national do-not-call registry.

FTC chairman Timothy Muris said the agency disputed the court decision, arguing that the do-not-call registry was created as a result of legislation signed in March.

“This decision is clearly incorrect,” Muris said in a statement. “We will seek every recourse to give American consumers a choice to stop unwanted telemarketing calls.”

The Direct Marketing Association and others sued to block the program, saying it violated the constitutional rights of businesses involved in telemarketing.

The court did not specifically address the free-speech concerns raised in the suit but said there was no valid authority to enforce the registry.

“Admittedly, the elimination of telemarketing fraud and the prohibition against deceptive and abusive telemarketing acts are significant public concerns,” US District Judge Lee West wrote.

“However, an administrative agency’s power to regulate in the public interest must always be grounded in a valid grant of authority from Congress. Absent such a grant of authority in this case, the court finds the do-not-call provision to be invalid.”

Grr. I hope this gets overturned, and quickly. It sure sounds like hairsplitting to me.

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4 Comments

  1. Charles M says:

    Unless I read the articles incorrectly, his decision did not speak to the legality of either a Federal list or already existing state lists. It only addressed the FTCs authority to implement one.

    How this will wind up on appeal is a good guess. The NY Times is reporting Congress thought they had given such authorization:

    “Contrary to the court’s decision, we firmly believe Congress gave the F.T.C. authority to implement the national do-not-call list,” the congressmen [Tauzin & Dingell] said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the situation and will take whatever legislative action is necessary to ensure consumers can stop intrusive calls from unwanted telemarketers.”

    Incidentally, Judge West was appointed by Nixon.

  2. Charles M says:

    Incidentally, Judge West was appointed by Nixon.

    Incidentally, I can’t read. He was appointed by Carter. Nixon appointed him to the CAB. My bad.

  3. Greg Wythe says:

    As I understand it, this is a good decision … despite what one thinks of the merits of the list are. The problem was that the FTC devised regulations on its own for this list, bypassing Congress in authorizing it in the first place. Later, they went and asked for money from Congress to enforce it (hence the Tauzin confusion), but it was still never authorized, only funded.

    Might sound like splitting hairs, but in reality, it’s a legitimate check on government in general. Fear not, though … the authorization part of that will get corrected soon, I suspect. The problem here is that government did not work as it should, not the merits of the law itself.

  4. Looks like the authorization is getting cleared up. The House rushed through a “We Really Mean It This Time” bill which passed with only 8 dissenting votes, IIRC. The Senate is scheduled to do likewise today or tomorrow.