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The public’s frustration with telemarketers and its right to privacy justifies the national Do-Not-Call list, government lawyers argued before a federal appeals court Monday. Telemarketers, however, told the three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the list inhibits competition and violates their right to free speech by barring calls from businesses but not charities or politicians. The telemarketing companies want the court to uphold lower court rulings that found the list unconstitutional. The court did not indicate when it would rule. The government’s interest in protecting the privacy of U.S. households warrants the opt-in list, said Peter Keisler, an assistant attorney general. Americans find calls from companies far more invasive than calls from charities, he said. “When Congress first looked at this problem in 1992, it found the overwhelming number of calls and overwhelming number of complaints came from commercial callers,” he said. Americans have felt barraged by the sheer volume of commercial calls, he said. The government also had evidence telemarketers were not abiding by rules that allowed consumers to prevent specific firms from calling their homes. But attorneys for telemarketing firms argued that consumers were not aware of those options and that the Do-Not-Call list goes too far. “The only option the public is aware of is the national Do-Not-Call registry,” said Robert Corn-Revere, who represents three telemarketers. The court allowed the list to go into effect Oct. 1 pending the outcome of the court battle. It now contains more than 50 million phone numbers. More than 51,000 complaints have been filed against telemarketers for allegedly calling numbers on the list. Charities, pollsters and calls on behalf of politicians are exempt from the list, which is intended to block about 80 percent of telemarketing calls. The case consolidates related challenges: a case brought against the Federal Communications Commission by Denver telemarketers and the FTC’s appeal of an Oklahoma judge’s ruling that the agency lacked the authority to create and operate the list. Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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