The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it has invalidated a 2015 amendment from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), and ruled Congress “impermissibly favored” debt-collection speech over political speech—violating the First Amendment.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh said that while Americans disagree about many things, they are “largely united in their disdain for robocalls.”
Justice Kavanaugh added that the Federal Government received 3.7 million complaints regarding robocalls in 2019.
The TCPA was initially passed in 1991, which prohibited robocalls to cell phones and home phones. However, a 2015 amendment to the TCPA allowed robocalls that are made to collect debts owed to or guaranteed by the federal government, such as mortgage debts.
Justice Kavanaugh added that while the entire 1991 restriction should not be invalidated, the 2015 government-debt exception must be “severed from the remainder of the statute.”
Robocalls based on political speech are still not allowed, but they are treated equally with debt-collection speech.
The 2015 amendment was passed under President Barack Obama’s Bipartisan Budget Act.
In 2018, the National Mortgage Servicing Association (NMSA) sent a letter to the FCC requesting clarifications and guidance regarding the implementation of regulations imposed by the TCPA.
In March 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling in the case of ACA International v. FCC, clarifying several issues with regard to consumer and industry rights pertaining to robocalls and texts sent to consumers. While industry groups hailed this as a step in the right direction, there are still many questions that need answering with regards to how TCPA regs apply to servicers and the financial services industry.