Court Upholds Charity Telemarketing Rules

A U.S. district court in Maryland last week upheld new federal restrictions that require charities using professional third-party fundraisers to abide by telemarketing rules that once applied to for-profit solicitors only.

The court sided with the Federal Trade Commission in its defense of the new rules against a constitutional challenge filed by the National Federation for the Blind and Special Olympics Maryland. Under rules that took effect last year, charities were exempted from the national no-call list but required to abide by company-specific no-call requests as well as rules governing abandoned calls, time restrictions, caller ID and disclosures.

According to the FTC, the court ruled that the agency had authority to regulate for-profit fundraisers. The court wrote that the new rules did not violate the First Amendment rights of charities because the restrictions “are very narrowly drawn to prevent only particularly abusive practices,” the FTC said.

Errol Copilevitz, the attorney representing both charities, said he was disappointed by the court's analysis of the case and that the charities plan to ask the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to review the decision. Copilevitz said analogies exist between the case and the landmark Riley v. National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina decision, which Copilevitz successfully argued before the 4th Circuit Court in 1988.

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