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ATA Challenges NJ No-Call Law

The Federal Communications Commission will consider a petition by the American Teleservices Association to pre-empt New Jersey's no-call law on the grounds that it is inconsistent with federal law.

In documents released Monday, the FCC said it would accept public comments on the ATA's petition for 30 days. The petition, filed Aug. 24, argues that New Jersey's no-call law has a narrower definition of existing business relationships — which are exempt from the federal no-call list — and that the state has tried to apply its rules to interstate telemarketing.

The FCC has said that though states can create their own rules regarding intrastate telemarketing calls — those that start and end within the state — states are “almost always” pre-empted by federal rules regarding interstate calls. The FCC also has said that it will review instances in which state law conflicts with federal law on a case-by-case basis.

Federal law defines an existing business relationship as a customer who made a purchase in the past 18 months or an inquiry in the past three months. New Jersey's rules define an existing business relationship as a customer who is currently transacting business on a regular basis or is an “established customer,” one who has received regular service from a company in the past and has not affirmatively terminated the relationship.

In its petition, the ATA called New Jersey's definition “confusing and unnecessary.” The association also challenged the state's disclosure requirements, which it said were more strict than the federal rules.

Other state teleservices laws have been challenged on the grounds that they are inconsistent with federal law. An automated prerecorded message service provider, ccAdvertising, has asked the FCC to overturn North Dakota's law banning all unsolicited prerecorded messages, including political, charity and survey calls.

Federal law also bans unsolicited prerecorded calls but exempts non-commercial calls.

A spokesman for the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, which runs the state no-call list, said the division was reviewing the petition and could not comment at this time.

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