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Suit Claims 'No-Call' Violations

Lockyer accuses firm of disregarding new telemarketing registry.

November 07, 2003|Nancy Vogel | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer sued a home improvement company Thursday for violating the national "do-not-call" registry by calling dozens of Californians who had signed up to avoid telemarketers.

The lawsuit, which is the nation's first enforcement action since the registry of 51 million people took effect last month, seeks at least $100,000 in penalties against American Home Craft Inc., based in Hayward.

At least 60 people complained about receiving phone calls from American Home Craft in October after they registered to be included on the do-not-call list, Lockyer said.

"We hope that the legal action will put all telemarketers on notice that they should get a copy of the do-not-call registry and take the law seriously," he said. "If they don't, it's our intention to protect the privacy rights and family time of the millions of Californians who signed up for the do-not-call registry."

A woman who answered the phone at the American Home Craft offices Thursday said the company would have no comment about the lawsuit.

Lockyer's suit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, seeks an injunction against the company and fines of as much as $1,500 for each violation of the federal law.

The suit also alleges violations of California's unfair business practices law, which carries penalties of as much as $2,500 for each violation. Another California law that takes effect Jan. 1 could stiffen those penalties to a maximum of $11,000 per violation.

In the last three weeks, telemarketers for American Home Craft called dozens of people in 12 area codes in Hayward, Sacramento, Irvine and San Diego, Lockyer said.

When consumers protested that they had registered for the do-not-call list, the company's marketers responded by saying, "We use a different list," or, "You must have registered late," the attorney general said. But those excuses are proven wrong by the fact that the company never purchased the do-not-call list from the federal government, he said.

"We know who gets that list and who does not," Lockyer said.

He predicted that there would be many more such lawsuits around the country, including by his office. Since Oct. 1, California consumers have filed 5,400 complaints alleging violations of the registry.

Lockyer encouraged people to gather as much information as possible from telemarketers who may be violating the registry, such as the name of the company they represent, the phone number that they called from and what product they were selling. He said complaints made to the Federal Trade Commission, by calling (888) 382-1222 or online at, will be shared with his office.

In September, acting on telemarketer arguments that the federal registry violated free-speech rights, two federal judges blocked the FTC from enforcing the popular registry. But in October, an appellate court allowed the commission to begin enforcing the law while courts weigh the constitutional issue.

Lockyer's suit is based on the do-not-call registry that is run by the FTC. Earlier this week, the Federal Communications Commission proposed fining AT&T Corp. $780,000 in the first enforcement of separate federal do-not-call regulations that have been effect for months.

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