NFIB Files Amicus Brief to Protect Business' First Amendment Rights

Author: Cynthia Magnuson Date: December 27, 2012
For Immediate Release
Contact:  Cynthia Magnuson 202-314-2036 or 

Washington, D.C., January 2, 2013 — The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Legal Center last week filed an amicus brief in support of Spirit Airlines, in its challenge to the government requirement to display the total cost of an airline fee, thereby hiding the cost of government-imposed taxes. At issue in Spirit Airlines v. Department of Transportation, is whether the “Total Price Rule” violates the First Amendment by impeding the ability of business owners from openly criticizing the taxes and other fees imposed by the government on their customers.
“Small businesses maintain trust with customers through truthful, non-deceptive speech. This is vital to any business’ success and is subject to the highest level of First Amendment protection,” said Karen Harned, executive director of the NFIB Small Business Legal Center. “We are very concerned about the potential impact of this case on the ability of the government to dictate what a business owner can and cannot say, particularly when it is intended to support a self-serving government desire. The free speech implications of this case are great; for the sake of our job creators, we must do everything within our power to protect political speech that arises in a commercial context.”
Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Allegiant challenged a Department of Transportation (DOT) rule that since January 2012 has required airlines to “prominently” display the total cost of a ticket, including taxes, when advertising airfares in print or online. Previously, airlines could advertise the base fare, adding taxes and fees later in the shopping process. The total price rule directly impacts petitioners’ - all low-cost airlines - ability to identify and criticize the taxes and other fees imposed by governmental entities.
NFIB’s amicus brief argues that the First Amendment provides businesses with the right to communicate with their customers about the burdens imposed by government taxation, and that the DOT rule violates that right. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., dismissed the airlines’ challenge and Spirit and its co-plaintiffs are now asking the U.S. Supreme Court for review.


The NFIB Small Business Legal Center  is a 501(c)(3) organization created to protect the rights of America's small business owners by providing advisory material on legal issues and by ensuring that the voice of small business is heard in the nation's courts. The National Federation of Independent Business is the nation’s leading small business association, with offices in Washington, D.C. and all 50 state capitals.


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