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Legal Battle Over, FTC Official Offers Olive Branch

MIAMI BEACH, FL — With the Supreme Court challenge to the national no-call list officially over, one of the prime movers behind the list offered a truce to the telemarketing industry yesterday.

Eileen Harrington, associate director of marketing practices with the Federal Trade Commission's bureau of consumer protection, told the teleservices industry to put the legal fight behind it and work together with regulators. Harrington gave a keynote address at the American Teleservices Association 2004 Convention & Expo.

On Monday, the Supreme Court without comment declined to hear the ATA's appeal of a lower court ruling upholding the no-call list. The court's decision effectively ended any remaining legal controversy over the list.

“As of [Monday], we are no longer adversaries in a legal contest,” Harrington said. “I would hope we could move forward not being adversaries in any sense.”

The FTC's main goal all along has been to protect consumers and fight fraud, Harrington said. She also said she wanted to explode the “myth” that the launch of the no-call list was politically motivated. The list was the brainchild of professional regulators in the FTC, she said. Elected lawmakers later supported the list but did not propose it.

Harrington's session with the industry was less controversial than her last appearance in June 2003, when she spoke at the Direct Marketing Association Teleservices Council's show in Palm Beach, FL. At that meeting, sometimes-angry telemarketers vented frustration with the FTC's plan to launch the no-call list.

This time, Harrington led the crowd at the opening general session in singing “Happy Birthday” to an ATA board member. Still, she criticized the industry's old argument against the no-call list — that consumers actually wanted telemarketing calls — which she said contradicted mountains of evidence.

“It was the head-in-the-sand comment,” she said. “Like, 'What planet are you guys on?'”

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