Court blocks national do-not-call list

A U.S. district court in Oklahoma City has ruled that the Federal Trade Commission does not have the authority to run a national anti-telemarketing list, but the donotcall.gov Web site associated with the list remained up and running.

Federal Judge Lee R. West ruled Tuesday that the FTC had no statutory authority to promulgate a national registry of phone numbers that cannot receive unsolicited marketing calls.

In a statement, however, FTC Chairman Timothy J. Muris said that the commission had 'clear legislative direction' to create the registry.

FTC officials also filed a motion to stay the decision pending an appeal.

The Direct Marketing Association Inc. of New York and four telemarketing companies had filed suit against the FTC over the National Do Not Call Registry, which opened its virtual doors in late June. The registry is a joint effort of FTC and the Federal Communications Commission, which was not named in the suit.

Last week, FTC announced that more than 50 million households had registered their phone numbers with the service. The list was supposed to take effect on Oct. 1.

In his statement, Muris said that FTC issued the rules that created the do-not-call registry under the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Protection Act. Earlier this year Congress passed and President Bush signed the Do Not Call Implementation Act to allow the commission to fund the registry through fees on telemarketers and sellers.

The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2003 also contains language authorizing FTC to 'implement and enforce the do-not-call provisions of the Telemarketing Sales Rule,' Muris said.

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

In a statement, the DMA expressed gratitude about the decision but said it still 'acknowledges the wishes of millions of U.S. consumers who have expressed their preferences not to receive telephone marketing solicitations.'

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