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Supreme Court Upholds Act Banning Robocalls For Debt Collectors and Political Consultants

Jericho Casper

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Photo of Justice Neil Gorsuch in September 2019 by the LBJ Library used with permission

July 6, 2020 — The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ban on unsolicited robocalls to cell phones with their Monday ruling on Barr v. the American Association of Political Consultants.

The court expanded the ban to additionally prohibit robocalls from political consultants and debt collectors.

The American Association of Political Consultants contended that an across-the-board ban on robocalls, established by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, was unconstitutional because of a carveout added under the Obama Administration in 2015.

The carveout allowed for robocalls to be made in cases of debt collection backed by the federal government.

The consultants argued that the carveout created a content-based restriction on speech, in an attempt to get the entire robocall ban tossed out.

The Supreme Court largely rejected that argument, deciding that the carveout permitting debt collectors to call was unconstitutional rather than the ban itself.

The court severed the carveout aiding debt collectors, but left the ban intact, meaning that debt collectors can no longer make unsolicited robocalls to Americans’ cell phones.

While six justices agreed the carveout was an example of a content-based restriction, two justices, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, voted to strike down the robocall ban entirely because it.

Seven justices agreed that the remedy to the issue should be severing the 2015 carveout.

In recent years, the Federal Communications Commission has taken several measures to combat illegal robocalls and malicious caller ID spoofing.

Agency Chairman Ajit Pai issued the following statement on the ruling, saying he had long opposed the 2015 carveout and has been calling for Congress to reverse course on the matter.

“I opposed that decision because, as I said at the time, the federal government should not bestow ‘regulatory largesse upon favored industries such as federal debt collectors,’” Pai said.

“Today, the Court found that the last Administration’s attempt to create a special exemption for favored debt collectors was not only bad policy but unconstitutional,” he continued. “I am glad to hear that Americans, who are sick and tired of unwanted robocalls, will now get the relief from federal-debt-collector robocalls they have long deserved.”

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