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Bush boost to no-call list

Washington, Sept. 30 (Reuters): President George W. Bush signed into law yesterday a bill removing a hurdle to the national “do-not-call” list which officials predicted would be largely effective despite other legal setbacks.

While Bush’s signature does not override free-speech concerns raised by one court, the Federal Communications Commission will be able to enforce much of the initiative started by the Federal Trade Commission.

Americans have placed 50 million phone numbers on the FTC’s registry, which was blocked last week by two US courts. Telemarketers who call numbers on the list after October 1 could face fines of up to $11,000 per call.

Bush’s signature overrules the objection of a judge in Oklahoma City who said the FTC did not have the proper authority to oversee the list. Congress quickly rewrote the law last week to give the FTC the authority.

“Given a choice, Americans prefer not to receive random sales pitches at all hours of the day and the American people should be free to restrict these calls,” Bush said. But the President and Congress can do little to alter the second court decision, which said the do-not-call list infringed free-speech rights enshrined in the US constitution. Only the courts can address constitutional issues, a process that frequently take years.

US judge Edward Nottingham in Denver refused late yesterday to allow the FTC to enforce the list while it appeals his decision. The FTC is expected to ask the Denver appeals court to stay his decision.

US officials said today they would try to enforce the “do-not- call” registry as best they can. The Federal Communications Commission planned to enforce the list on its own,

Most telemarketers will still face penalties if they call numbers on the no-call list after tomorrow, because a US appeals court in Denver has allowed the FCC to enforce the registry while it hears a similar free-speech lawsuit brought by telemarketers. Telemarketing firms that have downloaded the list will be obligated to abide by it, officials said, while those that have not will not be required to do so.

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