Independent Contractor vs. Agent under the TCPA

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals went back to the basics in addressing whether a telemarketing vendor acted as defendant’s authorized agent for purposes of TCPA liability. In Jones v. Royal Admin. Servs., Inc., No. 15-17328, 2017 WL 3401317 (9th Cir. Aug. 9, 2017) (“Jones”), the Ninth Circuit endorsed the time-honored multi-factor test set forth in Restatement (Second) Of Agency, and on that basis affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The decision provides further reassurance that traditional agency principles apply in assessing potential TCPA exposure related to calls. Continue reading

Eleventh Circuit Holds That Revocation of Consent Can Be Partial, Will Be Factual and Contextual

Last week the Eleventh Circuit held that a consumer can revoke her consent not only orally but also partially. See Schweitzer v. Comenity Bank, No. 16-10498 (11th Cir. Aug. 10, 2017). The rule it announced would be a double-edged sword that makes it more difficult not only for defendants to comply with the TPCA, but also for plaintiffs to satisfy Rule 23.

The plaintiff in Schweitzer provided her cellular telephone number—and, by doing so, her consent to be called at that number—when she applied for a card from the defendant. See Opinion at 3. When she failed to make timely payments on that credit card a year later, the defendant allegedly placed “hundreds” of “automated” calls regarding her debt. The plaintiff answered at least two of those calls. Id. During the first, she said “And, if you guys cannot call me, like, in the morning and during the work day, because I’m working, and I can’t really be talking about these things while I’m at work.” Id. at 4. During the second, she said “Can you just please stop calling? I’d appreciate that, thank you very much.” Id. The defendant continued calling after the first exchange, but stopped calling after the second. Id. Continue reading

District Court Finds a Text Message Sent to Complete a Transaction is Not Telemarketing

As customers increasingly elect text messaging as their preferred means of communication during online ordering, such messages can raise the risk of a potential TCPA claim asserting that the text is “telemarketing” for which the customer did not provide prior express written consent, as required by the statute. A recent and informative decision rejected such a claim, finding that such messages are not telemarketing if they simply “complete a transaction” initiated by the customer. Continue reading

Promotion of Company’s Product on a Prohibited Fax Advertisement Held Insufficient to Sue the Company as the “Sender” Under the TCPA

The Eastern District of Michigan recently rejected an expansive interpretation of “sender” liability for unsolicited fax advertisements alleged to violate the TCPA, ruling that the mere inclusion of a company’s products on fax advertisements sent by a third party is not enough, standing alone, to saddle the company with liability for sending the faxes. Rather, to be liable for the faxes, the company must have taken affirmative steps to advertise its products through the faxes. This common-sense ruling, which further aligns Sixth and Seventh Circuit case law on this important issue, should provide ammunition for companies defending TCPA claims based on faxes sent by others in the distribution chain without the authorization or approval of the defendant. The Court also issued another in the litany of recent decisions confirming the limits on personal jurisdiction over foreign corporations. Continue reading

Courts Rein In TCPA “Revocation Of Consent” Claims

In TCPA Blog’s latest column for Law360, Mike Daly and Dan Brewer discuss the increasingly common “revocation of consent” claim. After the FCC held that consent can be revoked through “any reasonable method,” businesses found themselves struggling to comply with that directive, and plaintiffs found themselves with yet another “gotcha” claim to assert:

The two years that followed the FCC’s ruling have been marked by a dramatic uptick in what had already been a staggering number of TCPA filings, particularly “revocation of consent” claims of the sort predicted by Chairman Pai. Entrepreneurial plaintiffs have even taken to manufacturing such claims by ignoring prompts to text “STOP” and replying instead with “halt,” “cease,” “desist,” “discontinue,” “refrain,” or some other response that is designed to slip through the sender’s automated system for recognizing and registering revocations of consent. Although such contrivances are anything but “reasonable,” plaintiffs know that defending such claims are not without cost or inconvenience, and businesses continue to receive complaints and demand letters every day.

The article then details how a number of courts have started to push back on such claims, for example because the attempt to revoke consent was not “reasonable,” or because consent had been provided in a bilateral contract and therefore could not be unilaterally revoked.

Click here to read the full article.

FCC Releases Two Notices of Inquiry Addressing Reassigned Numbers and Caller ID Spoofing

The FCC released two notices of inquiry (NOIs) related to TCPA issues last week: one on how to better track reassigned numbers, and another on tightening industry wide techniques to discourage Caller ID spoofing, one category of illegal robocalls. Each NOI seeks public comment. Continue reading

As Contemplated By the FCC?: TCPA Defendant Seeks Indemnification From Consumer Who Provided Plaintiff’s Mobile Number

One of the central issues in the consolidated appeal from the FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order is whether the term “called party” refers to the intended or actual recipient of the call. The FCC’s Order interpreted the term “called party” to be the “subscriber” or “non-subscriber customary user” of the phone that was called, regardless of whether the caller meant to call someone else. Under this interpretation, businesses that in good faith attempt to contact consumers who have consented to receive such calls face significant liability when those calls reach someone else instead. Continue reading

FCC Proposes $120 Million in Fines for Serial Spoofer and Warns that Spoofer’s TCPA and Wire Fraud Activities Must Cease

At its monthly Open Meeting on June 22, the FCC voted to issue a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL) finding that Adrian Abramovich (Abramovich) apparently perpetrated one of the largest spoofed robocall campaigns that the agency has ever investigated. The FCC, through its Enforcement Bureau, concurrently released a separate Citation and Order notifying Abramovich that he also violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) as well as the federal wire fraud statute by making these same illegal telemarketing calls to emergency lines, wireless phones, and residential phones, and that the calls included prerecorded messages falsely claimed affiliation with well-known U.S. travel and hotel companies, thus defrauding unsuspecting consumers receiving these calls. Continue reading

Seventh Circuit Rules that Rule 67 Does Not Provide an Avenue to Mootness

After the Supreme Court held in Campbell-Ewald v. Gomez that merely offering to make a payment will not moot a claim, we predicted that defendants would explore various procedural mechanisms for arguing that actually making a payment will moot a plaintiff’s claim. Indeed, although the Supreme Court did not reach the issue, its decision strongly suggested that plaintiffs who have received complete relief—as opposed a mere offer of complete relief—no longer have live cases or controversies as required by Article III. See Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, 136 S. Ct. 663, 672 (Feb. 9, 2016) (“We need not, and do not, now decide whether the result would be different if a defendant deposits the full amount of the plaintiff’s individual claim in an account payable to the plaintiff, and the court then enters judgment for the plaintiff in that amount.”). This week, however, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that not even tendering funds into a court-monitored interest-bearing account is enough to moot a claim. See Fulton Dental, LLC v. Bisco, Inc., No. 16-3574 (June 20, 2017). What, if anything, would be enough it did not say. Continue reading

Contracts 101: Second Circuit Holds That Black Letter Contract Law Precludes Revocation of Consent Claims under the TCPA

The explosion of litigation under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) has continued through the second quarter of 2017. Businesses have been anxiously awaiting a ruling from the D.C. Circuit in the appeal of the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) July 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order as well as reforms from the FCC itself. As the wait continues, promising developments have been emerging from the courts. On June 22, 2017, the Second Circuit—in a common sense and practical opinion in Reyes v. Lincoln Auto. Fin. Servs., No. 16-2104 (2d Cir.)—acknowledged that contract is king and that a party cannot unilaterally modify its terms. In affirming summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the court cited the Restatement (Second) of Contracts and explained that “[i]t is black letter law that one party may not alter a bilateral contract by revoking a term without the consent of a counterparty.” Its opinion in this TCPA action has significant implications for businesses that have standard contracts with their customers. And it is a welcome step in the right direction. Continue reading