Hartford, Conn.—The Institute for Justice (IJ) and the Interior Design Protection Council (IDPC) today kicked off what they have dubbed “Interior Design Freedom Month,” which they announced in conjunction with the filing of IJ’s third lawsuit challenging unreasonable licensing restrictions for interior designers. At issue is a Connecticut law that allows anyone to work as an interior designer but forbids people from using that term to describe themselves without a special license from the government. The Institute successfully challenged a similar law in New Mexico last year and is currently challenging another one in Texas.
Complementing those efforts on the legislative and grassroots fronts, IDPC has rallied interior designers to resist the efforts of a small, elitist faction of interior designers that is attempting to cartelize the industry through arbitrary and unreasonable occupational licensing laws. In doing so, IDPC has helped beat back 30 different attempts to impose or expand restrictions on interior designers around the country in the past three years.
The Institute for Justice is a public interest law firm that litigates nationwide on behalf of entrepreneurs facing anti-competitive state licensing laws like Connecticut’s interior design “title act,” which attempts to censure truthful commercial speech by interior designers about services they lawfully provide. But government censorshjp of that kind violates interior designers’ First Amendment right to freedom of speech, which is why today [TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2008], IJ joined with three Connecticut interior designers to file suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut in Hartford, challenging the state’s requirement that they obtain what amounts to a free-speech license in order to truthfully advertise their services.
“Connecticut’s censorship of interior designers is blatantly unconstitutional and represents a deliberate attempt by a tiny faction within the interior design industry to silence competitors by preventing people from truthfully advertising the services they provide,” said Clark Neily, senior attorney with the Institute for Justice. “Our clients are interior designers, but the state insists that they keep that fact a secret. That is a clear abuse of government power.”
A case study released in November 2007 by the Institute for Justice documents a long-running campaign led by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) to expand regulation of interior designers in order to put would-be competitors out of business under the guise of “increasing the stature of the industry.” The nationwide push for more regulation of interior designers has come not from the public or the government, but from a small group of industry insiders. The study is available at: www.ij.org/images/pdf_folder/economic_liberty/Interior-Design-Study.pdf.
The attempt to increase regulation of interior designers has been extremely aggressive, with ASID-affiliated groups pushing over 70 different bills in 20 states over the past three years. Despite millions of dollars spent on lobbying, outreach and public relations efforts, the cartelization movement has hardly been a success, having only passed one new law in Oklahoma in 2006 and no new laws in 2007 or 2008.
“ASID has spent nearly $6,000,000 lobbying for regulations to create a monopoly that would exclude countless honest, hard working interior designers,” said Patti Morrow, executive director of the Interior Design Protection Council, a nationwide grassroots network of interior designers that oppose cartelization of their industry. “The majority of ASID’s own members do not even possess the credentials ASID claims are necessary to work as an interior designer and it is likely that many of them are completely unaware of ASID’s anti-competitive efforts. IDPC’s mission is to organize and educate interior designers on how to effectively resist ASID-supported legislation and protect their livelihoods. Our grassroots groups have been 100% successful so far, having managed to beat back every single legislative cartelization attempt for two years.”
Despite its recent failures, ASID and other industry-insiders seeking to monopolize the interior design industry have not given up. To the contrary, they have made clear that they intend to re-double their lobbying efforts, and 2009 is expected to see the cartel’s most intense lobbying campaign yet. ASID recently imposed a mandatory $15-per-member annual assessment to help fund that campaign and has been increasing the tempo and volume of its public relations efforts in the past few months.
In response to the largely unsuccessful but ever more aggressive cartelization efforts of ASID and others, IJ and IDPC together declared September Interior Design Freedom Month.
“Interior design is a dynamic profession that celebrates innovation, creativity and diversity,” said Morrow. “ASID’s attempt to impose its one-size-fits-all occupational licensing scheme on the profession could not be more contrary to those values. We will continue our fight to protect the rights of honest, hard-working interior designers in all 50 states.”
Throughout Interior Design Freedom Month, IJ and IDPC will work with the media to spotlight the abuses and deceptions of the interior design cartel, with strategic researchers to rebut the cartel’s baseless empirical assertions, and with independent interior designers to oppose the cartel’s next wave of lobbying efforts. Additional legal challenges in other states are anticipated as well.