Time Out for Dinner

When people gather at home for meal, invariably the phone rings. Telemarketers know when someone is most likely to be home, and they take advantage of that with multiple attempts, using those annoying automatic-dialers.

The Federal Trade Commission wants to help put an end to all the disturbance with a national "do not call" registry. One call stops it all. Sounds great, doesn't it?

The idea is a toll-free number for citizens to call to have their names taken off telemarketing lists. If a marketer calls a number in the "no call" registry, it would be fined $11,000. The FTC would maintain the list.

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"Foul!" cry civil-liberties advocates, who worry about government access to yet another list. A free-speech issue? Not if consumers can choose not to participate in the database.

Already, many states have similar laws. Considering the widespread nature of this problem, though, such FTC action is warranted to help people decide whether to have their privacy invaded by phone.

But the FTC proposal has a big flaw: It would allow political campaigns, charities, and banks to be exempt. Consumers should make that choice, too.

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