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AG Nessel Joins Coalition to Ensure Attorneys General Can Continue to Fight Robocalls

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel recently joined a bipartisan coalition in taking action to ensure state attorneys general can continue to fight illegal robocalls through the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).  

The coalition of 35 attorneys general filed an amicus brief in Lindenbaum v. Realgy arguing that the TCPA robocall ban was enforceable from 2015 to 2020. 

"As attorneys general, we are at the forefront of this fight and we have seen firsthand the threat that illegal robocalls present to our state’s residents,” Nessel said. “These calls are a public nuisance and have the potential to cause real financial harm for millions of people. The TCPA must be upheld so we can continue holding these bad actors accountable for their illegal practices.” 

In 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law a government-debt exception to the TCPA. The exception allowed for calls and texts to collect on debts owed or guaranteed to the federal government. In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated that exception and severed it from rest of the TCPA. Later, a district court ruled in Lindenbaum v. Realgy that because part of the law was struck down, the TCPA is invalid in its entirety and cannot be used to hold robocallers accountable for their actions between 2015 and 2020. This argument has been made by a number of robocallers in federal courts recently. 

The brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, asks the court to reverse the lower court’s ruling. The brief argues that the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision made clear that the invalid government-debt exception did not affect the TCPA’s primary robocall ban. It further argues that the district court’s decision was inconsistent with basic principles on severability. 

The attorneys general have several ongoing enforcement actions under the TCPA, and invalidating the law on a technicality would let robocallers off the hook – which was not the intention of the U.S. Supreme Court. The bipartisan coalition argues that aside from the government-debt exception, the rest of the TCPA can and must be upheld so it can be enforced.  

In January 2020, people received more than 4.7 billion robocalls nationwide. That same month, about 128 million were placed with Michigan residents.  

Attorney General Nessel is joined in filing this brief by the attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont,  Virginia, and Washington. 

A copy of the brief is available here.