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SACRAMENTO, February 2, 2021 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined a multistate coalition in an effort to stop companies from breaking the law with harassing telemarketing calls. In an amicus brief filed in Lindenbaum v. Realgy, LLC, the attorneys general called on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to reverse a district court’s ruling that a landmark federal law intended to stop telemarketing scams was unconstitutional and unenforceable for a five-year period ending in 2020.
“Californians rely on federal protections to help curb unwanted telemarketing calls. People who engaged in illegal robocalling between 2015 and 2020 should be brought to justice,” said Attorney General Becerra.“Granting a five-year hall pass to these harassers would permit illegal activity and open the door for more.”
Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in 1991 to restrict robocalls and prerecorded calls to consumers without their consent. In 2015, Congress amended the TCPA to include a “government debt exception” that allowed telemarketing calls concerning debts owed to – or guaranteed by – the federal government, such as certain mortgages and student loans. Five years later, in 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the TCPA’s government debt exception violated the First Amendment and was unconstitutional. Rather than invalidate the entire TCPA, the Supreme Court severed the government debt exemption from the TCPA, keeping intact its remaining prohibitions on unwanted telemarketing.
In 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio dismissed Lindenbaum v. Realgy, LLC, a robocalling case related to the TCPA, on the grounds that the entire TCPA was unconstitutional between 2015 and 2020. The district court’s decision creates uncertainty regarding the enforceability of the TCPA during that time. Today’s amicus brief filed by the multistate coalition of attorneys general argues that the district court erred in that decision.
Attorney General Becerra is fighting to ensure that illegal robocallers in California and across the nation are brought to justice for illegal acts committed between 2015 and 2020. This brief further demonstrates Attorney General Becerra’s commitment to protecting Californians against unwanted, intrusive telemarketing. In October 2020, Attorney General Becerra petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Facebook and others from harassing consumers with robocalls and robotexts. In December 2020, Attorney General Becerra announced a $210 million multistate settlement against Dish Network (Dish), concluding an 11-year legal dispute over the company’s illegal telemarketing campaigns.
In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of Indiana, North Carolina, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the brief is available here.