Court ruling means do-not-call list here to stay

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direct-marketing groups faced up to reality and promised to work with legislators and the Federal Trade Commission to clear up the federal government's do-not-call registry after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn the list.

The American Telemarketing Association, which unsuccessfully appealed to the high court, said it intended to look in other directions for aid. ATA, which mostly represents the companies that own the call centers, had appealed a lower-court decision upholding the list.

"Many companies have folded and jobs have been lost due to the registry," said Tim Searcy, the group's CEO. He added ATA was not discouraged by the end of the litigation. An ATA news release said the group would try to make federal and state lists more consistent, so telemarketers would not need to buy two sets of lists.

The Direct Marketing Association, which mostly represents marketers and didn't participate in the Supreme Court appeal, said the court's Oct. 4 decision not to take the case "changes nothing." DMA's members "remain committed to respecting the wishes of those who have placed their household telephone numbers on the do-not-call list," CEO John A. Greco Jr., said in a statement.

ATA went a step further after the decision, announcing its intention to launch a self-regulatory organization to examine industry-compliance issues.

need for consistency

"The dramatic change in the industry has created a pressing need for consistency and reliability," said Mr. Searcy. "Our goal is to use existing regulations and soon-to-be-developed standards to accredit and audit both inbound and outbound call centers."

The high court's decision not to review the case effectively makes permanent the industry changes and job losses incurred since former FTC Chairman Tim Muris implemented the registry in 2003. More than 64 million phone numbers have been registered on the do-not-call list since the FTC started taking registrations.

The telemarketing registry has prompted a call for a similar registry for e-mail from Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. The FTC rejected that idea, saying it wouldn't work and marketing groups said they don't think the court action would have any impact on the FTC's view.

Both DMA and ATA had originally challenged the registry, arguing that the law amounted to a ban on free speech. The DMA dropped its challenge after the appellate-court ruling, but the ATA continued. It argued the regulations were excessive and could be better handled by better enforcement of existing regulations or new, less onerous rules. It also argued forcing marketers to buy do-not-call lists was a tax on free speech and that an exemption for nonprofits was an illegal distinction.

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