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
On Tuesday, June 13, 2017, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice held a hearing on “Lawsuit Abuse and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.”
Based on the testimony, statements, and questions at the hearing, it seems that the Subcommittee is in the very early stages of considering possible reforms to the TCPA. Although there is no draft legislation yet, nor even an agreement in principle of what changes to pursue, several members of the Subcommittee—including Subcommittee chairman Steve King and Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte—seem committed to find a way to rein in the statute’s disproportionately high social costs while maintaining its core purpose of protecting consumer privacy. Indeed, both Representatives expressed significant concern regarding the concrete harms that the current wave of TCPA litigation is having—injuring businesses trying in good faith to comply with the law; depriving consumers of desired (and, in some cases, sorely needed) communications; and enriching a small cohort in the legal profession who are pursuing their personal profit rather than the welfare of the American consumer. Continue reading
As we predicted, the D.C. Circuit today denied the plaintiff’s petition for a rehearing en banc of the panel decision striking down the FCC’s regulations requiring opt-out notices on solicited faxes. The per curiam order notes only that “[u]pon consideration of the petition for rehearing en banc, the response thereto, and the absence of a request by any member of the court for a vote, it is ORDERED that the petition be denied.” This result is hardly surprising given (i) the FCC Chairman’s current position that the panel decision overturning the FCC was correct (an anomaly that is the result of turnover at the Commission following the election results in November 2016) and (ii) the infrequency with which petitions for rehearing en banc are granted. We expect that the plaintiffs’ bar will continue its appeal efforts via a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, but also expect that effort to meet the same fate as the petition for rehearing.
For years, courts, litigants, and commentators have grappled with the TCPA’s definition of “automatic telephone dialing system” (“ATDS”). As a result of the FCC’s July 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order, the debate has focused on the question of capacity, i.e., whether a device must have the present capacity to “(a) store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and (b) to dial such numbers” or—as the FCC found—if the potential capacity is sufficient. Continue reading