Not surprisingly, the Federal ‘Do Not Call’ registry was swamped yesterday as 735,000 phone numbers were registered. Starting in October, telemarketers can be fined $11,000 for each number on the list they call. Of course, the politicians protected themselves:

The new list applies to most businesses but does not affect solicitations from political organizations, charities, surveys or insurance companies.

Also, companies retain the right to contact customers for up to 18 months after their last transaction, or up to three months after a request for information or the submission of an application. However, by law, individual companies must heed any consumer’s request to stop calling.

Certainly, better than nothing, but a lot of loopholes. A national opt-in list would be much more preferable. And, while I understand polling and political calls, the rational basis for excluding insurance salesmen escapes me.

The telemarketing industry is filing lawsuits, presumably on 1st Amendment grounds, and claims that two million jobs could be lost. I would think the 1st Amendment claim would be shot down, but, as we found out yet again this week, there’s no predicting how Supreme Court justices will read the Constitution. Clearly, no right to intrude into the homes of others is included in the Bill of Rights.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steven says:

    A more legit question is whether this is really a federal power in the first place.

  2. James Joyner says:

    True ’nuff. I guess it’s reasonable enough as an interpretation of interstate commerce. Regulation of telephone traffic has been a federal responsibility from the get-go, really.

  3. Steven says:

    You make a point with the Commerce Clause, so I am off base. Still, as annoying as telemarketers are, it seems a fairly small and petty thing for the Congress and the President to be dealing with.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Hard to argue with you there. I guess, along with spam, it’s one of the top annoyances out there. Sort of a reverse collective action problem–things that annoy 99% of the population get more attention than really important things that affect 15%.