ATA "Disappointed, Not Discouraged" By Supreme Court Ruling

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The American Teleservices Association said yesterday it is disappointed, but not discouraged, by the U.S. Supreme Court refusal to consider a challenge of North Dakota's "Do Not Call" law in a ruling Monday.

The telemarketing law, passed in 2003, bars most organizations from making telephone sales calls to homes if the number is listed on a state "do not call" list.

The North Dakota branches of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Veterans of Foreign Wars challenged the law, saying it hampered their fundraising activities.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law this past December, saying it helps safeguard privacy without violating the free speech rights of charities. The Supreme Court refused Monday, without comment, to consider a challenge.

Indianapolis, IN-based ATA said it continues to believe that state regulations, which go above and beyond those established by the FTC, place undue risk and financial and administrative burdens on teleservice providers, most of which are small businesses. While the FCC has exclusive jurisdiction over interstate telephone communications, it has so far failed to clearly declare and enforce that authority.

"The ATA has long been extremely active on the state-level, and will continue these efforts," said ATA's CEO, Tim Searcy, in a statement. "In addition to this, however, the ATA plans to obtain feedback from key regulators regarding non-litigious methods to protect consumer privacy and preserve commercial interests."

The ATA said that there is a petition before the FCC encouraging the agency to clarify the line between federal and state authority. Interstate telemarketing is plainly encompassed within the FCC's broad jurisdiction over interstate communications.

The FCC does have the authority to establish regulations for interstate telemarketing that balance consumers' need for privacy with the interests of legitimate telemarketers. The Commission's policy would be better served through the enforcement of that authority, the ATA said.

In a related story, last month, North Dakota's Supreme Court upheld restrictions on telemarketers' use of "robo-call" machines, rejecting a Virginia company's argument that federal law overrides North Dakota's rules. The decision affirmed a $20,000 penalty against FreeEats.com Inc. for making political survey calls to thousands of North Dakotans in 2004.

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