In July 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) Omnibus Declaratory Ruling and Order that overhauled and updated a number of aspects of the statute. Among the changes was a debt exemption that permitted automated calls to cellphones when the calls were for the collection of government-backed debt such as a student loan.
However, in 2019, the Fourth Circuit found this exemption to be unconstitutional on free speech grounds. In fact, in finding the exemption to be a content-based restriction that favored a select group, the court nearly invalidated the TCPA as a whole. The court was able to avoid invalidating the entire statute only by severing the “flawed exemption” from the rest of the TCPA.