updated: 2/15/2008 2:24:53 PM

[UPDATED] Judge Rules Autodialer Law Does Not Apply to Political Messages

InsideINdianaBusiness.com Report

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Indiana's autodialer law has been given a serious blow with a ruling by Orange Circuit Judge Larry Blanton in Harrison County. Blanton has ruled that Indiana's autodialer law does not apply to political messages. Judge Blanton says a political message delivered during a political campaign is not the selling of a tangible product, and therefore, the law does not apply.

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Source: Inside INdiana Business

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Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter tells our partners at WAXL in Santa Claus that the autodialer law regulates the use of technology and does not address the issue of commerce.

Once the judge issues his written ruling, Carter says he is ready to file an appeal. In the meantime, Carter says his office intends to enforce the law, pending the outcome of the case as it moves through the state's appellate court system.

Carter had originally filed suit against American Family Voices in connection with autodial messages that took place during the 2006 election.

Source: Inside INdiana Business and WAXL

Press Release

(INDIANAPOLIS, IN) – Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter will appeal a ruling issued this week in Harrison Circuit Court that dismisses a lawsuit to enforce Indiana’s Automated Dialing Law against American Family Voices (AFV).

“Until all appeals are resolved, companies make political robo-calls at their peril,” Carter said. “We will continue to enforce the law to protect citizens from unwanted and illegal practices.”

Carter filed a lawsuit in September, 2006 against AFV and had sought an injunction after receiving complaints about automated calls being made by the organization that did not provide the required live operator to obtain the recipient’s permission to play the pre-recorded message. AFV is one of nine companies the state has filed suit against or reached a court-ordered agreement with for alleged violations of federal or state statutes regulating automated and pre-recorded calls since 2004.

Special Judge Blanton (Orange Circuit Court) issued a ruling from the bench today ordering the dismissal of the case against AFV stating that the automated dialing statute was limited to commercial calls. The attorney general has argued that the statute is broader and applies to both commercial and political calls such as those made by AFV. A final written order is expected to be forthcoming.

Last September, Carter prevailed in a federal lawsuit challenging the enforcement of the automated dialing statute against political calls by FreeEats, one named defendant Carter is suing in Brown County court for also making illegal, prerecorded calls. In a brief filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Carter stated that:

“The Autodialer Law prohibits, with a handful of justifiable exceptions, all prerecorded telephone calls made with an autodialer without the consent of the call recipient. It does so not for the purpose of restricting any particular messages, but to protect Indiana citizens from the harassing, unwanted privacy intrusions inflicted by modern technology when callers use it repeatedly to send prerecorded telephone messages. Every court that has reviewed similar autodialer laws has concluded that they are content neutral.”

The brief goes on to say:

“The Indiana Autodialer Law in no way targets political-campaign calls, political surveys, political solicitations, or any other non-commercial calls. It applies across the board, regardless whether the calls survey opinions or sell products, ideas, or candidates. The Autodialer Law is justified by a concern for the protection of residential privacy, not a concern that any particular message may, for better or worse, influence the views of the call recipient.”

The attorney general also filed suit against the Economic Freedom Fund (EFF) for making illegal, pre-recorded calls in violation of the Automated Dialing statute. That case remains pending in Brown Circuit Court. That court issued an order in September, 2006 banning EFF from making automated calls. That group is a client of FreeEats.com which has admitted that it made nearly 400,000 automated calls into Indiana during a two day period.

AFV testified in court that it had suspended its calling into Indiana and the attorney general has not received further complaints since the lawsuit was filed.

“AFV should continue to refrain from making robo-calls while we seek review by the Indiana Court of Appeals,” Carter added.

Indiana’s “Automatic Dialing Machine” statute [IC 24-5-14-5] specifically states:

Sec. 5. (b) A caller may not use or connect to a telephone line an automatic dialing-announcing device unless:

(1) the subscriber has knowingly or voluntarily requested, consented to, permitted, or authorized receipt of the message; or
(2) the message is immediately preceded by a live operator who obtains the subscriber's consent before the message is delivered.

Carter testified before a Congressional Committee earlier this year on enforcement of Indiana’s Automated Dialing Law and urged Congress to allow states to regulate such calls on behalf of citizens.

Source: Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter's Office

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