On May 3, 2018, a broad range of 18 industry groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce petitioned the FCC to take much-needed action to curb abusive TCPA litigation stemming from prior FCC and court interpretations of the definition of an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”). The petition naturally followed from the D.C. Circuit’s decision in ACA Int’l v. Fed. Commc’ns Comm’n, 885 F.3d 687 (D.C. Cir. 2018) to vacate the FCC’s ATDS interpretation contained in the 2015 FCC Declaratory Ruling and Order (“2015 TCPA Order”) as unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious. The petitioners seek clarity on the definition of an ATDS so businesses can better understand how they can effectively communicate with their customers without fear of liability under Section 227(b) of the TCPA. Continue reading
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.
In Pozo v. Stellar Recovery Collection Agency, Inc., No. 15-0929 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 2, 2016), the Middle District of Florida recently entered summary judgment against the plaintiff because it determined that an ATDS had not been used to call her.
The defendant in Pozo used a web-based dialing program called Human Call Initiator (“HCI”) to initiate the calls. HCI uses a “point-and-click” process that allows calls to be initiated by human “clicker agents.” Specifically, the program will not initiate a call until a clicker agent manually confirms in a dialogue box that the call should be made to that particular number. If a call is answered, the clicker agent then refers the call to a “closer agent” who speaks with the debtor. The program also allows clicker agents to view the availability of closer agents and will not initiate a call unless a closer agent is available. Continue reading
In TCPA Blog’s latest Law360 column, Mike Daly, Meredith Slawe, and Dan Brewer discuss why courts should temporarily stay TCPA cases pending the regulatory appeal of the FCC’s July 10, 2015 Order, which is set for oral argument before the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on October 19, 2016. The article addresses the flaw in plaintiffs’ argument that they are prejudiced while awaiting a decision: Continue reading
In Barr v. The Harvard Drug Grp., LLC, 13-62019, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79422 (S.D. Fla. June 11, 2014), the court found that an offer of judgment served via email mooted the plaintiff’s claim despite the filing of a motion for class certification later that same day.
The class action complaint alleged that the defendant sent faxes in violation of the TCPA. The defendant served an offer of judgment on the plaintiff’s attorneys via email on November 27, 2013, at 11:12 am and also via UPS. The defendant offered to pay $1,500 for each alleged violation of the TCPA, to pay any costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees, and to stipulate to an injunction and the entry of a judgment against it. At 3:25 pm that same day, the plaintiff moved for class certification.
The Eastern District of California recently granted a motion to stay proceedings under the primary jurisdiction doctrine in Matlock v. United Healthcare Servs., Inc., No. 13-2206, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37612 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 20, 2014). It stayed the proceedings until the FCC rules on United Healthcare’s expedited petition to clarify the definition of “called party” under the TCPA’s prior express consent provision.
A few weeks ago we wrote about Hunt v. 21st Mortgage Corp., 2013 WL 5230061 (N.D. Ala. Sept. 17, 2013), in which the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama took a narrow view of what qualifies as an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) under the TCPA. That definitional issue has been hotly contested because calls that do not use an ATDS do not need prior express consent. (Our prior summary of the issues and the Hunt decision is available here.)
The District of Massachusetts recently found that TCPA claims arising from debt collection calls fall within the scope of an arbitration agreement that covered disputes relating to “violations of statute” or “the impositions or collection of principle.” Cyganiewicz v. Sallie Mae, Inc., Nos. 13-40068, 13-40067, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 153554, 153556, at *7 (D. Mass. Oct. 24, 2013).
In Cyganiewicz, plaintiffs brought suit against Sallie Mae, claiming that its collections practices violated the TCPA. Plaintiffs were the borrower and the co-signor on three promissory notes, all of which contained arbitration agreements that could have been (but were not) rejected by sending a signed rejection notice to Sallie Mae within sixty days of the disbursement of the loan. Id. at *2. Plaintiffs alleged that Sallie Mae made calls from automated dialing machines to collect the outstanding balance of their loans, including approximately 147 calls after plaintiffs requested that the calls stop. Plaintiffs argued that their arbitration agreements were not enforceable and that, even if they were, their TCPA claims were not arbitrable. The court found otherwise and granted Sallie Mae’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.