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Company Settles Call List Charges

June 24, 2004|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

California said Wednesday that it would receive $100,000 from a home improvement company to settle the first lawsuit filed alleging violations of the federal "do-not-call" program.

American Home Craft Inc., a vinyl siding manufacturer based in Hayward, Calif., was sued in November in U.S. District Court in San Francisco for making telemarketing phone calls to more than 120 Californians who had placed their names on the national do-not-call registry, California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer said.

There are 55.4 million phone numbers on the registry, which went into effect in October, according to the Federal Trade Commission, which is jointly enforcing the list with the Federal Communications Commission.

California's lawsuit, which alleged violations of the state's unfair business practices, was the nation's first enforcement action since the registry took effect.

"American Home Craft blatantly disregarded one of the most significant consumer protection laws ever enacted," Lockyer said.

A call to Michael McCloskey, a lawyer for closely held American Home Craft wasn't immediately returned.

The $100,000 settlement includes $45,000 in civil penalties, $30,000 for the cost of the investigation and $25,000 in restitution to California residents who filed complaints with California, the FTC or the FCC about the phone calls. Consumers who filed complaints can receive damages of $200 each.

According to Lockyer, telemarketers for American Home Craft called dozens of people in 12 area codes in Hayward, Sacramento, Irvine and San Diego.

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.

A U.S. appeals court in February rejected a challenge by telemarketers' groups to the do-not-call registry. The court ruled that barring solicitations that once reached 100 million calls a day doesn't violate the free-speech rights of telemarketers.

Bloomberg News was used in compiling this report.

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