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Friday, December 22, 2006

Ohioan Says Do-Not Call, Now Seeks Telemarketer $$$$

WESTERVILLE, Ohio(TDB) --Philip J. Charvat says a telemarketing company called him on May 28, 2005 at 1:15 p.m. Again on Dec. 6, 2005 at 8:37 p.m. And again and again and again. In all, Charvat says he got 10 unwanted telephone calls from the same outfit up through mid-September of this year. Now, the suburban Columbus man is in federal court saying the sales calls came from a global vacation network without his "prior permission or invitation" and he wants more than $75,000. He said the solicitations kept coming after he made a "Do Not Call" request.

He's already in the lawbooks. An Ohio Supreme Court justice, Republican Paul Pfeiffer, wrote an opinion that cited an episode of the Seinfeld TV show in a ruling that backed Charvat in a dispute against telemarketing by a newspaper. Here's the passage from the comedy show that the Supreme Court turned into official legalese:

SEINFELD: (Phone ringing) Hello.
TELEMARKETER: Hi. Would you be interested in switching over to TMI long-distance service?
SEINFELD: Oh, gee. I can't talk right now. Why don't you give me your home number and I'll call you later.
TELEMARKETER: Well, I'm sorry. We're not allowed to do that.
SEINFELD: I guess you don't want people calling you at home.
SEINFELD. Well, now you know how I feel.

Charvat's new lawsuit contends he invoked a federal law that is supposed to ban telemarketers from bothering people. He also cited other violations of state consumer protection laws. His complaint is scheduled for a January 8 pre-trial conference before U.S.Magistrate Norah McCann King in Columbus and says the calls came from outfits with the initials ''HLK" and "CMN" and 'IMS." They were described as as ''entities of unknown type and unkown principal place of business." (Southern District of Ohio, 2:06-cv-983.)

In 2002, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that Charvat could have his day in court against the Columbus Dispatch newspaper, which called him twice trying to get him to buy subscriptions after he made a do not call demand. Charvat was a Sunday only subscriber of the newspaper. (At this writing, it is unclear how the case came out when sent back to lower courts.)

Justice Paul Pfeiffer noted in the Seinfeld ruling that the phone soliciation industry employed a lot of people and was economically important. But he said it had obvious failings, recounted the TV bit, and dropped in his own dime's worth: ''Telemarketing has become a garish billboard planted in the center of the cultural landscape, and has become the target of professional and water-cooler social commentators througout the nation."

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