California Awaits Federal DNC Decision

California's do-not-call list, originally set to take effect Jan. 1, is on hold at least until April 1 while state authorities await word from federal agencies on plans to create a national DNC system.

State attorney general Bill Lockyer may ask California legislators to halt the creation of the state DNC list if federal regulators succeed in their efforts to create a national list, so long as that list is as strong or stronger than the one planned for California.

As the nation's most populous state with 33.8 million residents, California's proposal for a DNC list presented the biggest threat of cutting telemarketer access to consumers prior to the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission announcing plans for national DNC lists.

Now, backed by Lockyer, California lawmakers are slowing their rush to create a state list. Facing a $20 billion budget deficit, the state can ill afford the expense of redundant DNC lists.

“If the federal government does a strong one, that's great,” said Hallye Jordan, spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office. “Why waste a lot of money if the federal program is great?”

The question confronting California is when the federal government will act. Under the current law, the state attorney general will be required to create a state list by April 1.

Federal agencies have been vague about when they will release details of national DNC plans. The FTC has said it will announce its plans by the end of the year and have a list in place by the first quarter of 2003, while the FCC has said it won't announce its plans until spring.

“I hope the federal government will quickly decide one way or the other whether it is going to favor the privacy of the home or telemarketers,” state Sen. Liz Figueroa, who sponsored California's DNC list legislation, said in a statement. “Until the federal government gives us the final word about what it wants to do, implementation of my do- not-call program for Californians will be more challenging than it ought to be.”

California's position of preferring a national list over its own contrasts with that of a majority of other states with their own no-call registries. Attorneys general in those states oppose pre-emption of state DNC lists by a national list, preferring to enforce the rules for which many actively lobbied in their home states.

Unlike the federal DNC lists, which would be free to consumers, California residents would pay $5 for a three-year registration to the state list. State officials also are concerned that having both a state and federal list would confuse California consumers, Jordan said.

The California attorney general's office has been in touch with federal agencies but has received no details about the national DNC plan, Jordan said. Lockyer wants to know by the end of the year whether the federal government will proceed.

“We're sort of in this limbo, waiting to see what the federal authorities are going to do,” Jordan said. “We will do something for California consumers.”

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