Do not call registry facing a tough battle
Published 9:15 pm Wednesday, October 8, 2003
I'd like for you to take a moment and imagine if you will a scenario I'm about to describe. It's one that is quite familiar to all of us and one which can often produce some very great memories.
Picture a mother and father that have just arrived home from work and who find their children running around, anxious to describe the exciting things they experienced during their day. A quick perusal of the day's mail is followed by glancing at the evening news and, finally, a nice meal around the dining room table.
This particular moment in the life of this family and millions of others like it is indeed very serene and very pleasant -- until the moment comes to a crashing halt when the telephone rings. And rings again. And rings a third time.
If your household is like most, then invariably your phone rings numerous times a night with calls from groups offering everything from free cruises to secrets on how to make a fortune by working out of your home. I personally cannot think of anything more annoying than having life interrupted by these unwelcome and bothersome calls.
Finally, something is going to be done about it. Or will it?
Enforcement of the "do not call" registry was due to begin on Oct. 1, and companies and organizations who did not abide by the requests of the consumers on the list could have been penalized up to $11,000 per telephone call.
Unfortunately, the implementation of the national registry has hit several bumps in the road in recent weeks. First, the Federal District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma put a halt to the list. In its official ruling, the court stated the FTC did not have the statutory authority to enforce any national do-not-call list.
Within days of this ruling, both the House of Representatives and Senate introduced a total of four bills designed to give this very authority to the FTC. One of the four, H.R. 3161, passed by overwhelming margins: 412-8 in the House and 95-0 in the Senate. Not long after passage, President Bush signed the measure into law.
This victory was short-lived, however; even before being signed into law, the registry was declared invalid by a second federal judge in Denver, Colorado. In his ruling, the judge said the list exempted religious and charitable organizations from the do-not-call regulations, and therefore was a violation of the constitutional right to commercial free speech for organizations not exempted.
As has been the case many times in the past, this clearly marks a period of disconnect between the courts which interpret our laws and the Congress which creates them. The solution to this matter will be difficult, particularly since it has been thrown to the courts.
However, all is not lost. In recent days, officials with the FTC have stated they will do all they can to continue with enforcement of the do-not-call registry until a final ruling is issued by higher courts. They have also asked telemarketing and solicitation firms to voluntarily comply with the regulations of the list.
Additionally, several large telemarketing firms have announced that, regardless of the court's ruling, they will abide by the ruling. The president of DialAmerica, Inc., one of the country's largest telemarketing firms, has said they will comply with the list because "it is the right thing to do."
If you are interested in obtaining more information on the national do-not-call registry and the most recent developments with its implementation, I would encourage you to visit the official websites of the FCC -- http://www.fcc.gov -- and the FTC-- http://www.ftc.gov.
Additionally, you can contact my office and I will be happy to provide you with any information which may be available.
And, as both your congressman and a fellow consumer, you can be assured I will do all I can to ensure that quality time with our families cannot be interrupted by someone wanting to take your time and your money.
Please call or write whenever we can be of service.