Telemarketers sue to stop national do-not-call list

Telemarketers Wednesday filed two separate lawsuits against the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to try and stop a regulation that would restrict their calls to consumers.

The "do-not-call" program, first unveiled early last month, would allow people to add their names to a list of consumers who do not want to be contacted by telemarketers. Charities and political groups would be exempt, but telemarketing companies that ignore the FTC list would face fines of up to US$11,000.

One lawsuit was filed in federal court in Oklahoma by the New York-based Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and four telemarketing companies: Global Contact Services, Infocision Management Corp., U.S. Security Inc. and Chartered Benefit Services Inc.

The second law suit was filed in federal court in Colorado by the Washington-based American Teleservices Association (ATA), and two telemarketing firms: Mainstream Marketing Services Inc. and TMG Marketing Inc.

In their complaints, the ATA, the DMA and the other plaintiffs claim that the FTC's rule would cripple their industry by removing as many as 60 percent of all U.S. households from the marketplace, violate their right to free speech and exceed the FTC's statutory authority. They also said that consumers are already protected under 27 existing state do-not-call lists as well as a voluntary national list run by the DMA.

Matt Mattingley, the ATA's Director of Government Affairs said the FTC has not provided any evidence to show that the existing programs don't work.

FTC spokeswoman Claudia Bourne Farrell said the agency would have no comment until it had reviewed the documents.

But in a statement on his Web site, Jason Catlett, president of Junkbusters Corp., said the lawsuits are unlikely to succeed, even though the telemaketers filed them in courts that have been sympathetic to the interest of business.

"Telemarketing is an idea whose time has gone," Catlett said. "This line of business should just die quietly. Their ridiculously inflated figures claiming that the average American gives a thousand dollars a year to telemarkers just don't pass the smell test. Their First Amendment claims have been repeatedly rejected by courts in other analogous cases such as junk faxes. The suits are simply a desperate delaying of the the overdue."