At the invitation of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the FCC recently filed a letter brief in Palm Beach Golf Center-Boca, Inc. v. Sarris, No. 13-14013 (11th Cir.). The letter brief took the position that defendants can be held directly liable any time their products or services are advertised via a fax that violates the TCPA—even if they did not send the fax or even know that it was going to be sent.
The Western District of Washington recently adopted a “preponderance of the evidence” standard for establishing the prerequisites of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 and denied class certification in a TCPA case because the plaintiffs’ expert testimony did not meet the rigors of even a preponderance standard. See Southwell v. Mortgage Investors Corp. of Ohio, No. 13-1289 , 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112362 (W.D. Wash. Aug. 12, 2014).
Capital One and three collections agencies recently announced the largest proposed cash settlement in TCPA history – $75.5 million. This is more than double the amount of the prior record – a $32 million settlement from Bank of America.
The plaintiffs allege that Capital One and the other defendants used an ATDS to place debt collection calls to 21 million cell phone numbers without the requisite consent. Under the terms of the proposed settlement, Capital One will contribute $73 million to the settlement fund, while AllianceOne Receivables Management Inc., Leading Edge Recovery Solutions, LLC and Capital Management Services, L.P. will contribute $1.4 million, $996,205 and $24,220, respectively. The settlement agreement estimates that claimants will receive at least $20-$40 and allocates up to 30% of the settlement fund for an award of attorneys’ fees and costs in an amount to be set by the court. The settlement fund is non-reversionary. Capital One also agreed to take steps to ensure TCPA compliance going forward though it expressly disclaimed any liability in connection with the settlement.
On August 1, 2014, the FCC issued a Public Notice seeking comment on a petition filed by Santander Consumer USA, Inc. (“Santander”), which requests an expedited declaratory ruling from the FCC to clarify the meaning of “prior express consent” with respect to non-telemarketing calls and text messages to cellular telephones, which include informational messages (e.g., messages regarding school closings or messages containing flight status information) and debt collection messages under the TCPA. Comments in response to the Public Notice are due September 2, 2014, and reply comments are due September 15, 2014.
On July 25, 2014, the FCC issued a Public Notice seeking comment on five petitions, filed by American Caresource Holdings, Inc. (“ACH”), CARFAX, Inc.(“CARFAX”), UnitedHealth Group, Inc. (“UnitedHealth”), MedLearning, Inc. and Medica, Inc. (“Medica”), and Merck and Company, Inc.(“Merck”) (collectively, the “Petitioners”) requesting a declaratory ruling and/or a waiver of section 64.1200 (a)(4)(iv) of the FCC’s rules. This rule requires certain fax advertisements to include an opt-out notice.1 Comments in response to this Public Notice must be filed by August 8, 2014; reply comments are due August 15, 2014.
- See 47 C.F.R. § 64.1200 (a)(4)(iv). [↩]
In a TCPA class action case concerning debt collection calls, the Southern District of California recently granted a debt-collector defendant’s motion to file an amended answer and assert a counterclaim for breach of contract arising from the plaintiff’s approximately $22,000 debt for the purchase of a used vehicle. See Horton v. Calvary Portfolio Servs., LLC, No. 13-cv-0307, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102569 (S.D. Cal. July 24, 2014).
As we have previously noted, several courts in the Middle District of Florida have made it abundantly clear that plaintiffs should not file “placeholder” class certification motions solely for the purpose of thwarting an attempt to “pick-off” a named plaintiff. See Stein, et al. v. Buccaneers LP, No. 13-2136 (M.D. Fla.) (J., Merryday); Haight v. Bluestem Brands, Inc., No. 13-1400 (M.D. Fla.) (M.J., Spaulding). Last week, the court reiterated this stance yet again. See Dickerson v. Lab. Corp. of Am., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 100323 (M.D. Fla. July 23, 2014) (J. Moody).
The FCC is not the only federal agency tasked with regulating telephone calls. The FTC also regulates telephone calls pursuant to the Telemarketing Sales Rule (“TSR”) (16 C.F.R. § 310 et seq.). And while the scope of the TCPA and the TSR differs, the two sets of regulations overlap in a key area—prerecorded calls. See 47 C.F.R. § 227(b)(1); 16 C.F.R. § 310(b)(iv). As we have noted in a previous post, these regulations are not entirely consistent.
The District of Massachusetts recently entered summary judgment in favor of a plaintiff after deferring to FCC statements that purport to expand the definition of an automated telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) to include predictive dialers that can dial stored numbers without human intervention. See Davis v. Diversified Consultants, Inc., No. 13-10875 (D. Mass. June 27, 2014).
Jamie Davis sued Diversified Consultants Inc. (“DCI”), a debt collection agency, over calls to his cell phone. DCI had acquired a debt owed by Rosalee Pagan and then paid a third-party vendor for her telephone numbers and other information about her. But a number it obtained was assigned to Davis, who ended up receiving a total of 60 calls that were meant for Pagan. Davis filed suit and alleged that DCI had violated Section 227(b)(1)(A) of the TCPA, which makes it unlawful to “make any call (other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with the express prior consent of the called party) using any automated telephone dialing system . . . to any telephone number assigned to a . . . cellular telephone service[.]”