Second Circuit Moots Class Claims Based on Offer of Judgment

The Second Circuit last week confirmed that entries of judgment satisfying an individual plaintiff’s claims moot TCPA class actions.

In Bank v. Alliance Health Networks, LLC, No. 15-cv-4037 (2d Cir. Oct. 20, 2016), the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the class claims after an entry of judgment, pursuant to the defendants’ offer of judgment, rendered the class claims moot. The Second Circuit acknowledged that the Supreme Court held in Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, 136 S. Ct. 663 (2016) that an unaccepted offer of judgment does not moot a plaintiff’s claims. “But where judgment has been entered and where the plaintiff’s claims have been satisfied, as they were here when [the plaintiff] negotiated the check, any individual claims are rendered moot.”  Continue reading

Court Denies Certification In Significant TCPA Case Based on Lack of Ascertainability of the Class and Commonality Issues Because Evaluating Consent Would Require Mini-Trials for Each Individual

Since our December 8, 2015 blog post regarding the scope of vicarious liability, courts have continued to wrestle with the scope of vicarious liability under the TCPA and its ramifications with respect to class certification. A recent decision denying class certification based on lack of ascertainability of the class and commonality issues from the Southern District of Ohio in Barrett v. ADT Corp., No. 15-cv-1348, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28767 (S.D. Ohio March 7, 2016), illustrates why class certification is an uphill battle in this context for plaintiffs in TCPA litigation. Continue reading

TCPA and VoIP: Revisiting the Fourth Circuit’s Ruling In Lynn v. Monarch Recovery Management

In TCPA Blog’s latest Law360 column, contributors Eduardo Guzmán, Michael Daly and Anthony Glosson discuss the Fourth Circuit’s opinion in Lynn v. Monarch Recovery Management Inc.  They explain that the opinion has analytical gaps, leaves unanswered questions, and does not mean that calls to residential VoIP-based telephony services should necessarily be treated differently than calls to other residential:

In short, unpublished opinion in Lynn v. Monarch Recovery Management Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit stated that the “call-charged provision” of the TCPA applied to debt collection calls made to a residential VoIP-based line. The plaintiffs’ bar responded by suggesting that the TCPA applies differently to so-called “VoIP calls,” and telemarketing vendors responded by marketing services that scrub all numbers assigned to VoIP carriers — a move that, given VoIP’s increasing popularity, could end up eliminating a substantial percentage of residential numbers. However, a more objective analysis of the opinion and the issues suggests that these reactions may be overstated, if not altogether misplaced.

They go on to explain that predictions about the decision’s consequences may be wrong because it: (1) is unpublished and nonprecedential; (2) involved a highly unusual fact pattern; and (3) has serious gaps in its interpretation of the scope and application of the “call-charged provision.

Click here to read the full article

Why Everyone Is Upset About The Third Circuit’s Recent TCPA Decisions … And A Few Reasons Why They Shouldn’t Be: Part II

This is the second of two posts discussing the Third Circuit’s recent TCPA decisions. This one, Dominguez v. Yahoo, Inc., No. 14-1751 (3d Cir.), concerns the proper interpretation of the term “automatic telephone dialing system” (“ATDS”), which is front and center in the consolidated appeal from the FCC’s July 10th Declaratory Ruling and Order.

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What You Need to Know About the FCC’s July 10th Declaratory Ruling on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

A sharply divided FCC late Friday issued its anticipated TCPA Declaratory Ruling and Order (the “Declaratory Ruling”).  This document sets forth a range of new statutory and policy pronouncements that have broad implications for businesses of all types that call or text consumers for informational or telemarketing purposes.  While some of its statements raise interesting and in some cases imponderable questions and practical challenges, this summary analysis captures the FCC’s actions in key areas where many petitioners sought clarification or relief.  Certainly there will be more to say about these key areas and other matters as analysis of the Declaratory Ruling and consideration of options begins in earnest.  There will undoubtedly be appeals and petitions for reconsideration filed in the coming weeks.  Notably, except for some limited relief to some callers to come into compliance on the form or content of prior written consents, the FCC’s Order states that the new interpretations of the TCPA are effective upon the release date of the Declaratory Ruling.  Requests may be lodged, however, to stay its enforcement pending review.

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FCC Chairman Proposes to Clarify TCPA Rules at June Meeting

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler released a fact sheet and issued a blog post this week announcing that he had circulated a proposed order that would rule on the numerous petitions that companies have filed with the FCC seeking clarity on the TCPA rules. According to the Chairman, his proposal reflected in the draft order would “close loopholes and strengthen consumer protections already on the books.” The FCC is expected to vote on the Chairman’s proposal at its monthly meeting currently scheduled for June 18, 2015.

Although details have not been made public, the statements from Chairman Wheeler provide some insight as to what he has proposed:

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Court Clarifies Free Offers and Dual Purpose Calls

A recent decision from the Southern District of Alabama provides more clarity as to the treatment of “dual purpose” telephone calls to wireless numbers that offer free goods and services. The Federal Communications Commission already has explained that “offers for free goods and services that are part of an overall marketing campaign to sell property, goods, or services” are advertisements under the TCPA and FCC regulations. The FCC also has explained that informational calls that are motivated in part by the intent to sell property, goods, or services are “in most instances” advertisements under the TCPA. This is true whether call recipients are encouraged to purchase, rent, or invest in property, goods, or services during the call or in the future (“such as in response to a message that provides a toll-free number”). Report and Order, In re Rules and Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, 18 FCC Rcd. 14014, ¶¶ 139-142 (2003).

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FCC Seeks Comment on Petition Concerning Prior Express Consent

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.

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Commissioner O’Reilly Calls for FCC Action on Backlog of Petitions

In a March 25, 2014 blog post titled “TCPA: It is Time to Provide Clarity,” Commissioner O’Reilly recognized the pressing need for clarity and called for the FCC to act “as soon as possible.” (Read entire post on the Official FCC Blog here).  Commissioner O’Reilly’s comments on the past year’s dramatic increase in TCPA litigation and the significant inventory of pending petitions echoes the concerns raised by many petitioners and highlights the fact that fear of litigation is discouraging businesses from offering communications services to consumers. (Prior blog posts addressing a number of the individual petitions filed before the FCC can be found here, here, and here.)  As a result, Commissioner O’Reilly points out, consumers are not receiving the “notifications and offers that they want and expect.”  This outcome is inconsistent with the balance “between protecting consumers from unwanted communications and enabling legitimate businesses to reach out to consumers that wish to be contacted” that Congress sought to achieve through the TCPA, and requires the FCC to “take a hard look at its own precedent” and “tackl[e] this backlog in a comprehensive manner.”

Two days after Commissioner O’Reilly’s remarks, the FCC granted in part two petitions for expedited declaratory ruling. (The FCC’s March 27, 2014 rulings are available here and here.)  The Commissioner’s blog post, in conjunction with the FCC’s recent rulings, may lend additional support to staying ongoing litigation proceedings pending agency action under the primary jurisdiction doctrine, as the Southern District of Texas and the Eastern District of California have already done.  (See our posts covering these decisions here and here.)