Is there anything that doesn’t end up in court these days?
The latest high profile court decision affects one of the most popular initiatives the federal government has taken since this country’s quest for the Moon – the establishment of a “do-not-call” list.
Congress gave the Federal Trade Commission authority to establish such a list which allows residents to register their phone numbers with the government, making it illegal for telemarketers to call them.
The rationale for the list was to give Americans the right to opt-out of the game played of telemarketers who call at all hours of the day pitching everything from credit cards to time shares. Companies dialing phone numbers of those registered are subject to an $11,000 fine for each offense.
A U.S. District Court judge ruled this week that the FTC overstepped its bounds in establishing the do-not-call list, but has yet to issue an order directing the government to abandon it. Still, the case might postpone the new program, which was supposed to go into effect next month. Fifty million people had already signed up.
It took one judge to reverse the will of 50 million Americans. But that’s the magic of our legal system which places rule of law over the tyranny of the majority. If the latest ruling does thwart implementation of the list, it will hopefully be overturned by a higher court.
Officials with the Direct Marketing Association, one of the plaintiffs in the case, expressed satisfaction with the ruling. They couldn’t act too happy, however, because of the list’s enormous popularity.
Telemarketers claim the new law would cost their segment of the economy to lose $50 billion a year. This form of commerce has become essential to many businesses, big and small. In fact this newspaper uses telemarketing to gain subscribers.
While there are many who use telemarketing wisely, there are many who do not. It’s bad enough that Americans are forced to simply hang up on telemarketers, but some are leaving long, recorded messages when the calls are ignored.
The 50 million who quickly signed up for the list should be proof that America is fed up with this method of commerce. Mass abuse of the phone lines has consequences for all who go the telemarketing route and few will sympathize with the likes of the Direct Marketing Association.
Part of the court’s ruling against the do-not-call list centered on jurisdiction and the argument that the Federal Communications Commission, not the FTC, should administer such a list. If that’ so, our members of Congress may have some work to do.
“If we have to be more explicit in the legislation to satisfy the court, that’s what we’ll have to do,” David Marin, aide to Rep. Tom Davis, R-13th District, told the Potomac News yesterday.
If the latest court ruling is not overturned, then Congress better get to work… or they’ll have 50 million Americans calling them to complain.