ATA Wants to Block Do-Not-Call Registry

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WASHINGTON ( -- The American Teleservices Association today said it would fight an appellate court's ruling that found the federal do-not-call registry constitutional.

The ATA and the Direct Marketing Association

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had sued the government, looking to dismantle a national registry of phone numbers that telemarketers cannot call. The ATA represents telemarketers and some marketers while the DMA is a trade group made up only marketers.

58 million numbers registered
A three-judge appellate court in Denver on Feb. 17 dismissed constitutional objections to the do-not-call registry, which is managed by the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission. Nearly 58 million phone numbers are registered on the list.

The DMA is bowing out of the appeal. "We have considered our options with legal counsel and teleservices users and suppliers in our broad membership, and have decided not to pursue further litigation," said DMA President H. Robert Wientzen.

The trade groups argued that while the registry was portrayed as a tool to help consumers wanting to stop direct-marketing phone calls, it amounts to a ban on First Amendment-protected speech that creates an unequal playing field for marketing competitors. They said better enforcement of existing laws and other steps could have eliminated unwanted sales calls without limits to free speech.

The ATA today said it would "continue its fight for the protection of commercial free speech."

"We believe that the rights to free speech are being unduly trampled under the guise of consumer protection, and now we'll take our appeal" to the Supreme Court, said Tim Searcy, an ATA executive director.

Work with FTC
Mr. Wientzen said his group had decided to instead work with the FTC to correct problems in the list.

"The telephone-marketing industry remains committed to respecting the wishes of those who have placed their household telephone numbers on the do-not-call list," Mr. Wientzen said. "Consumers must come first. We will listen to consumers."

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