CA Files First Lawsuit Under National No-Call

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The California attorney general's office alleged violations of the national no-call list in a lawsuit yesterday against American Home Craft Inc., the first instance of an enforcement action under the list.


American Home Craft, Hayward, CA, violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by calling California consumers who had registered for the Federal Trade Commission's national no-call list, the attorney general's office said. The calls occurred after Oct. 17, the date the grace period for list compliance ended, the complaint alleged.


In filing the suit, California law enforcers trumped their federal counterparts, who have yet to attempt an enforcement action under national no-call laws. The FTC has said it could be prepared to file a no-call list complaint in December, while the Federal Communications Commission this week filed a complaint against long-distance provider AT&T under its older, company-specific no-call rules.


States can enforce national no-call laws on their own, though the FCC typically enforces the TCPA. Under the TCPA, states can seek $500 per illegal call or up to $1,500 per call for "willful" violations.


The state will sue for the higher fines by showing that the company never bothered to obtain the national list as required, said Hallye Jordan, spokeswoman for the California attorney general's office. In some cases, consumers who complained to the company about the calls were told that American Home Craft "doesn't use" the national list, she said.


"We do believe this was willful," Jordan said. "They haven't even attempted to comply with the law."


The complaint did not reveal exactly how many no-call list violations occurred, though the state attorney general's office said it received complaints from "dozens" of consumers in the 12 area codes near the company's offices in Hayward, Sacramento, San Diego and Irvine.


In addition to the no-call complaint, the state alleged that the company violated California's unfair-competition rules, subject to a fine of $2,500 per violation.


Representatives of American Home Craft did not return a phone message left at their headquarters yesterday. The company is a licensed contractor that performs home improvements, Jordan said.


The state chose to file suit under the TCPA rather than the Telemarketing Sales Rule, the rule typically governed by the FTC that also enforces the national no-call list and calls for stiffer penalties, because the telemarketing calls occurred entirely within California, Jordan said. The TSR applies only to calls that cross state lines, whereas the TCPA has broad jurisdiction. The state has a no-call law of its own slated to take effect Jan. 1 that will provide for higher fines than those available under the TCPA, she said.


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