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. In 2020, the Supreme Court upheld this ruling in Barr v. AAPC.