Written by Timons Esaias
In another pesky 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that telemarketers and phone solicitors have a First Amend- ment right to call you at all hours of the day or night. But that's not all: the ruling also clearly states that, "this right extends to a requirement that the person answering the phone must listen to the entire message before making a decision. Hanging up before the message is finished denies the mar- keter's Constitutional Right To Be Heard, and also unfairly restricts their ability to earn a living."
The ruling strikes down many of the so- called "consumer protections" that were included in Congress's previous Telecommu- nications Act, where limits were put on: the times at which calls could be made, who could use computer-generated phone calling equipment, and requirements that market- ers cease calling for a year if requested to do so. "Those provisions are nothing but namby- pamby, anti-American, anti-commerce, crypto-liberal, obstructionist pusillanimism" wrote one conservative Justice in siding with the majority.
Court observers had expected the basic decision, if not the 'full message require- ment', all along. "The Court has a history of deciding free speech issues in favor of busi- ness," said Anastasia Dreyfus, legal correspondent for the Jaccuse Martyred Messenger. "Like their previous decision that car dealers could advertise, but customers who bought lemons from those dealers couldn't advertise against them because it would hurt the dealership's business."
Most Americans are expected to welcome the Court's decision. "There's really nothing very engaging on the TV anymore," ex- plained Vacua Philmore, who spoke to us on condition that we call back and chat fre- quently, "so it's nice to have people calling up to keep me up-to-date on the latest trends in aluminum siding and so on. It's like having your own private Home Shopping Network, and it's a lot cheaper than that Psychic Friends thing."
Retailers are hopeful that the right to call at any time will increase efficiency and provide a much-needed boost to the sluggish economy. "The hours between midnight and six a.m. have traditionally been a dead time for sales," notes Frank Argentgraber, Presi- dent of Merciless Merchandizing Mart. "Now we should be able to get the customer's attention when they're in a more relaxed, pleasantly incoherent state. You get a lot less unnecessary consumer resistance that way."
Some malcontents have complained that this ruling will have people being called constantly, relentlessly, and will destroy their privacy. But the Court's decision ad- dresses this issue directly by noting that, "Those people who want privacy need to just stop answering the phone."
Internet users, who have long resented unsolicited advertising in their online realm, are dismayed by the new legal situation. The ruling also included email advertisements under its protection, including the provision that all advertisements must be read in full by the receiving party. Ditto with fax ads.
"This will bring the Internet to a screeching halt!" complained one nerd, typifying the reaction of most modemheads. Psychologists who study the whole phe- nomenon of electronic interactivity say that this response is an immature and escapist enunciation. "People have been using cyber- space to evade their responsibilities as consumers," notes one scholar. "They become nothing but economic drones when they're connected, and contribute nothing useful to society. Exposure to online advertising will bring them back into contact with civiliza- tion, and have a positive influence on their lives that has been sadly missing till now."
"The Era of Consumer Rights is finally giving way to the Era of Consumer Respon- sibilities," one lobbyist for megamillionaire interests explained. "There has been a growing awareness for several years now of the duty each of us owes to the economy." This movement is best typified by the in- creasingly common bumper sticker:
AMERICANS AREN'T FULLY AMERICAN UNLESS THEY'RE BUYING SOMETHING.
In a related matter, the Supreme Court also agreed to hear a suit brought by the Objectification Defense Fund, a model and starlet interest group. The ODF seeks a ruling that all advertisements must include a picture of at least one provocatively-clad female, and that failing to carry such pic- tures "has unfairly limited women's livelihoods in today's brutally lascivious marketplace."
Oral arguments are scheduled for the first Monday in April.
Copyright (C) 1994 - 1997 by Virtual Press/Global Internet Solutions. Internet Daily News and its respective columns are trademarks of Virtual Press /Global Internet Solutions.