February 04, 2004
"We joined the brief to support the states' authority to regulate telephone solicitations to protect consumers from fraud and invasion of their privacy," Renkes said. "Consumers do not want the peace of their homes disturbed by unwanted telemarketing calls."
The North Dakota law prohibits telemarketing calls to people listed on the state's do-not-call registry. The law contains a few exceptions, including one for charitable organizations whose staff or volunteers make the calls.
The case arose when a group of charitable organizations that use professional fundraisers to solicit on their behalf challenged the law. They argued that the law improperly restricted the free speech rights of charities that rely on professional solicitors. A federal district court in North Dakota agreed, holding that the charitable speech provisions of the law unconstitutionally restricted charitable speech and were not narrowly tailored to the state's interests in preventing fraud and protecting privacy.
The states argue in the brief that paid professional telemarketers typically dial substantially more telephone numbers than charities that use their own volunteers and employees, and therefore it is appropriate for the restrictions to apply to them. They also point out that the North Dakota law merely enforces individual preferences of call receivers, as opposed to the government regulating the content of the speech.
The brief relies on a number of U. S. Supreme Court cases, including Rowan v. United States Post Office where the Court stated that "Congress has erected a wall or more accurately permits a citizen to erect a wall - that no advertiser may penetrate without [the citizen's] acquiescence." The states further argue that unwanted calls cannot be avoided by a simple action such as posting a "no solicitation" sign, so government assistance in avoiding such calls becomes necessary.
Alaska's do-not-call law is commonly called the "black dot" list. This law allows consumers to pay their local phone company a small fee to place a black dot by their name in the telephone directory, indicating that they do not wish to receive telephone solicitations. Alaska's law, like that of North Dakota, contains an exemption for charitable organizations, although it is narrower. The Alaska exemption covers charitable organizations that call those who made donations or indicated an interest in donating in the past 24 months.
In addition to state do not call laws, the federal government recently established a national do not call registry. Consumers can sign up for this free service by calling 1-800-382-1222.
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