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(DENVER, COLO.) – California State Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar today filed a "friend of the court" brief on behalf of the Attorneys General from 45 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, urging the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit Court to stay a Denver federal judge's ruling blocking the National Do Not Call program established by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
"More than 6.1 million California phone numbers are among the 50 million numbers on the Federal Trade Commission's National Do Not Call Registry, and these Californians expect to be protected against the invasion of telemarketers selling products and services they don't want and didn't ask for," Lockyer said. "Consumer protection is a responsibility states have historically shouldered and the right to privacy in California is a fundamental, inalienable right. I hope the federal appellate court will move swiftly to allow this important consumer protection law to go forward."
"This is a matter of residential privacy, not commercial telemarketers' alleged free speech rights," Salazar said. "If residents do not want to be called by commercial telemarketers, they should not have to suffer receiving those calls in their homes."
Joining the California and Colorado Attorneys General were their colleagues in: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The Attorneys General's "friend of the court" brief argues that preventing the FTC from enforcing its Do Not Call program would have a significant impact on the compelling public interest in protecting the privacy of citizens who have chosen to put their home and cell phone numbers on a list that telemarketers are prohibited from phoning.
The importance of the right to privacy in one's own home was made clear by the fact that more than 50 million phone numbers were registered on the FTC's list, and by how quickly Congress and the President acted to pass a law re-authorizing the Federal Trade Commission to create a national registry of phone numbers and bring actions against businesses that violate the privacy protection provided by the list.
In their brief, the Attorneys General note that denial of the stay may hamper the ability of the Federal Communications Commission and possibly some states to enforce their own laws and regulations. Delay in the implementation of the federal Do Not Call law would pose a burden on residents in states that have enacted similar protections that rely on the federal registry under state law.
California was poised to enact its own, state-operated Do Not Call statute in January 2003. The Attorney General's Office devoted considerable resources to develop the regulatory and technological infrastructure needed to create the list and enforce the prohibition on calls to phone numbers on the list. During the state's preparations, the Federal Trade Commission announced it would establish and maintain a national list. After consulting with the FTC and consumer advocates, the California Attorney General's Office opted to revise its state-only plan, and enforce state and federal laws against business that continued to call California numbers on the FTC's list. Having one list saved the state and consumers more than $2 million, eliminated confusion for consumers faced with two separate lists and cut costs for businesses that would have had to purchase both a state and federal list.
If the district court's decision blocking the FTC registry is not stayed, California may have to return to its original plan after already suffering a year-long delay in providing relief to those consumers who believed registering with the FTC would block telemarketing calls to their home and cell phone numbers.
The continued operation of Colorado's law is not directly impacted by the federal court rulings because Colorado established its own state registry, independent of the federal registry. Nevertheless, Colorado joins in this effort because of the constitutional issues that have been raised, which may ultimately impact Colorado's state law.