U.S. Supreme Court bolsters law banning 'robocalls'

Joanna Estrada
July 7, 2020

A man walks past the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, U.S., June 25, 2020.

The US Supreme Court decided today that debt collectors can no longer make robocalls to cell phones (via Ars Technica). In 2015, however, Congress added a provision that allowed debt-collection robocalls on government-backed loans, which include student loans, mortgages, past taxes and so forth.

Political consultants and pollsters were among those who asked the Supreme Court to strike down the entire 1991 law that bars them from making robocalls to cellphones as a violation of their free speech rights under the Constitution. The law imposes liability of up to $1,500 for any call or text message made or sent without prior express consent.

The groups wanted the ban on robocalls to cellphones struck down entirely, saying the law violated the First Amendment.

But the court ruled 6 to 3 on Monday that even debt collection calls should be prohibited going forward.

"Americans passionately disagree about many things".

"The continuing robocall restriction proscribes tens of millions of would-be robocalls that would otherwise occur every day", Kavanaugh writes. "The Federal Government receives a staggering number of complaints about robocalls".

Despite the ban, the volume of automated calls has surged in recent years, with Americans receiving 58.5 billion robocalls last year, an increase of 22% from 2018, according to YouMail, a company that provides a service to block automated calls.

"Although collecting government debt is no doubt a worthy goal", writes Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the majority opinion, "the government concedes that it has not sufficiently justified the differentiation between government-debt collection speech and other important categories of robocall speech, such as political speech, charitable fundraising, issue advocacy, commercial advertising and the like".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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