As businesses increasingly elect to use text messaging to communicate with consumers, they should be mindful that text messages are a frequent target of TCPA claims. FCC regulations require different degrees of consent depending on whether communications are commercial or informational; whereas businesses must have only “prior express consent” for purely informational texts, they must have “prior express written consent” for texts that include an advertisement or constitute telemarketing. (Certain other texts, for example those sent for an emergency purpose, are exempt from those requirements.) That begs the question: what qualifies as advertising or telemarketing such that the higher degree of consent is required? Continue reading
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
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
Dish Network LLC (“Dish”) recently filed a motion for a new trial after a jury found Dish liable for more than 51,000 calls to 18,000 class members, resulting in an award of $20.5 million.
In Krakauer v. Dish Network LLC, No. 14-0333 (M.D.N.C.), the plaintiff alleged that he had received telemarketing sales calls from an authorized dealer of Dish despite registering his number on the National Do Not Call Registry. He further alleged that these calls continued even after his telephone number was placed on both Dish’s and its authorized dealer’s internal Do Not Call Lists. Before trial, the court certified two classes: the first consisting of persons who received telemarketing calls despite having their telephone numbers on the National Do No Call Registry, and the second consisting of persons who received telemarketing calls despite having their telephone numbers on the internal Do Not Call Lists of Dish or its authorized dealer. Continue reading
Yesterday, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau held an informational webinar titled “How to Deal with Robocalls.” Kristi Thornton (Associate Division Chief, Consumer Policy Division) began by providing background on the TCPA and robocalls, as well as recent FCC actions pertaining to federal debt collection calls and the emergency purposes exception as it relates to calls placed by schools and utility companies. We previously reported on these actions here and here. Continue reading
On December 9th, the Federal Trade Commission released its annual National Do Not Call Registry Data Book for Fiscal Year 2016, which spans from October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016. The Data Book contains statistical information regarding the number of telephone numbers registered on the Do Not Call Registry, the number of entities that access phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry, and the number of complaints submitted to the FTC about companies allegedly violating the do-not-call rules. Statistics regarding numbers registered and complaints submitted are also categorized by state and area code in the appendix. Some highlights from the Data Book include:
- There were 226,001,288 telephone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry compared to 222,841,484 telephone numbers the year before;
- There were 5,340,234 consumer complaints compared to 3,578,711 consumer complaints the year before; and
- There were 2,353 entities who paid fees to access the Do Not Call Registry, 17,634 entities who accessed five or fewer area codes from the Do Not Call Registry at no charge, and 503 exempt entities that engaged in calls that either did not involve the sale of goods or services or were directed to persons whom they have an established business relationship with or whom they have obtained express written agreement to call.
This is the eighth year that the FTC has released a National Do Not Call Registry Data Book.
On November 7, 2016, a Southern District of Florida court sua sponte declined to exercise its supplemental authority and dismissed a plaintiff’s state law claims in a TCPA action. In Travis v. Residential Credit Solutions, Inc., the plaintiff alleges that defendant placed hundreds of calls to his cellular phone using an ATDS in an effort to collect a debt. From these allegations, the plaintiff filed an individual complaint consisting of three claims: two claims asserting violations of the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (“FCCPA”) and one claim asserting a violation of the TCPA. Continue reading
On December 14th, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. EST, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau will be hosting a free webinar for consumers entitled “How to Deal with Robocalls.” The purpose of the webinar is to provide information about consumers’ rights, the FCC’s role in addressing the issue of unwanted telemarketing robocalls, and the steps consumers can take to protect themselves from and/or decrease the amount of robocalls they receive. Individuals may participate via WebEx (audio and video) or by conference call. A detailed agenda is scheduled to be released in advance of the webinar. We will report back with observations and statements.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral argument in the consolidated appeal of the FCC’s July 10, 2015 TCPA Declaratory Ruling and Order on Wednesday, October 19th. The panel was composed of Judges Sri Srinivasan, Cornelia T.L. Pillard and Harry T. Edwards. The argument was well attended and lasted nearly three hours – much longer than the forty minutes for which it had been scheduled. The panel’s questions primarily focused on the definition of an ATDS, the identity of the “called party” from whom consent must be obtained, the impracticality of the FCC’s one-call safe harbor, and the methods by which consumers may revoke consent. A small portion of the argument was devoted to healthcare-related messages. Continue reading
As we previously reported, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held oral argument this morning in the consolidated appeal from the FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order. The issues before Judges Srinivasan, Pillard, and Edwards were: (1) the definition of an ATDS, particularly the Order’s treatment of the terms “capacity” and “using a random or sequential number generator;” (2) the identity of the “called party” from whom consent must be obtained and the impracticality of the Order’s one-call safe harbor provision; (3) the means by which consent may be revoked; and (4) whether healthcare-related calls should be afforded the same treatment they receive under HIPAA.
Paul Werner from Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP argued on behalf of petitioner Rite Aid, Shay Dvoretzky from Jones Day argued on behalf of the remaining joint petitioners, and Scott Noveck argued on behalf of the FCC. Although the argument was scheduled to last only forty minutes, it quickly became apparent that Judges Srinivasan, Pillard, and Edwards had concerns about portions of the Order and numerous questions for both parties. The argument ended up lasting more than two and half hours, the majority of which was devoted to what types of equipment qualify as an ATDS, and whether the one-call safe harbor provision strikes a tenable balance between protecting consumers and protecting callers that have been threatened with potentially annihilating liability for calling numbers in good faith that have been reassigned.
An audio recording of today’s argument is available here.