Angry Congress Rushes to Fix 'Don’t Call' Legal Flaw

29 September 2003

Fueled by an unusual mix of outrage and party unanimity, Congress on Friday took swift remedial action to fix a legislative flaw that allowed two US district court judges to rule last week that the Federal Trade Commission’s 'do-not-call' list is unconstitutional.

Even President George W Bush, hitherto silent on the FTC’s initiative, issued a statement condemning unsolicited telemarketing calls as “intrusive” and “annoying”.

Judge Lee R West, sitting in Oklahoma City, ruled on Wednesday the FTC had no legal authority to impose the ‘don’t call’ register on telemarketers. The following day Judge Edward W Nottingham in Denver reached a similar conclusion, opining the move to be unconstitutional [WAMN: 26-Sep-03] .

Responded FTC chairman Timothy Muris: “I do not believe that our Constitution dictates such an illogical result. To the contrary, our Constitution allows consumers to choose not to receive commercial telemarketing calls.”

He was supported by Michael K Powell, his counterpart at the Federal Communications Commission, which has also set up a registry to cover marketers not regulated by the FTC.

Said Powell: “The will of the people, the will of the Congress and of the Administration could not be more clear. Fifty million Americans have, thus far, asked not to be bothered by unwanted calls. This [court] decision wasn't just disappointing to millions of Americans, it was fundamentally flawed. We strongly believe the Do Not Call list withstands constitutional scrutiny.”

On Friday the House and Senate overwhelmingly voted to establish the FTC’s jurisdiction to enforce the register. However, in the light of the Denver decision, it is still not clear if the new rules will take effect, as planned, on October 1.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff