Second Judge Throws Out Federal No-Call List

(Direct Newsline) Late Thursday, a second federal judge ruled against the federal do-not-call list, saying it violates free speech protections.

U.S. District Judge Edward W. Nottingham in Denver blocked the list, reports said, which gave telemarketers another victory in a fast-moving series of events in which the do-not-call registry was off, and then on again.

A federal court decision on Tuesday had thrown out the do-not-call list. On Thursday, the House of Representatives had passed by a margin of 412 to 8 a bill that would give the Federal Trade Commission explicit authority to oversee the Do Not Call List for which more than 50 million Americans have already signed up. The Senate had also voted to reinstate the list and sent the bill to the President Bush for his signature.

In the first ruling, U.S. District Judge Lee R. West in Oklahoma City put a stop on the registry, saying the FTC lacked the specific authority from Congress to operate such a list. On Wednesday, the FTC asked West to stay his decision, pending an appeal. Late Thursday, West declined to issue a stay, according to wire service reports.

When interviewed before the second judge’s ruling, industry executives said they felt the DNC list was inevitable and have advised their clients to act accordingly.

“We’re advising our members to act like it’s still going into effect Oct. 1,” says Barbara Tulipane, CEO of the Electronic Retailing Association, which counts large teleservices bureaus like West Telemarketing and Convergsys among its members.

Even the Direct Marketing Association, which opposed the DNC list, urged taking a middle ground. “In spite of any changes that might result from the federal court’s recent ruling, and whether or not there continues to be a government-administered national no-call list, it is appropriate for marketers to respect the wishes of consumers who have placed their phone numbers on the FTC’s list,” CEO H. Robert Wientzen said in a statement.

Separately, several states with their own do-not-call lists in place said they do not feel West’s decision applies to them. According to news reports, officials in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Missouri noted that the Oklahoma ruling involved a legal challenge by telemarketing groups to the federal law, not to state laws.

“I’ve never heard of a challenge to a state-specific no-call law,” said Nielsen Cochran, a Mississippi public service commissioner. ‘”And we’re going straight ahead. We’re not going to hesitate because of the ruling in Oklahoma City.” Thirty-seven states have active do-not-call lists.

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