Central Hudson Gas & Electric v. Public Service Commission of New York (1980)

Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Commission of New York
447 U.S. 557 (1980)

Facts: During a fuel shortage, the Public Service Commission of New York ordered electrical utilities in the state to cease advertising that promoted the use of electricity. Three years later, after the shortage had eased, the Commission requested public comments on its proposal to continue the ban. Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. opposed the ban on First Amendment grounds. After reviewing the public comments, the Commission extended the ban.

Issue: May states regulate commercial advertising if it is in the states’ interest?

Holding: No.

Analysis: In commercial speech cases, the court has developed a four-part test: (1) Does the speech advertise or constitute false or deceptive advertising that is unprotected by the First Amendment? (2) Is the government’s restriction justified by a substantial governmental interest? (3) Does the law directly advance the government’s interest? (4) Is the regulation of speech no more extensive than necessary to achieve the government’s interest? The commission’s argument fails the final test in that it restricts advertising about electric devices or services that would cause no net increase in energy use.

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