Are Insurance Renewal Notifications Telemarketing? Maybe.

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As discussed here, the Central District of California recently granted summary judgment in favor of an insurance company after finding that a prerecorded call to the insured’s mobile phone, which reminded her to review her health plan options for the following year, was not telemarketing and therefore did not require “prior express written consent.” See Smith v. Blue Shield of Cal. Life & Health Ins. Co., No. SACV 16-00108-CJC-KES (C.D. Cal. Jan. 13, 2017).

But just a few weeks ago, a different judge in the Central District reached the opposite conclusion in a similar case, and denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss. See Flores v. Access Ins. Co., No. 2:15-cv-02883-CAS-AGR (C.D. Cal. Mar. 13, 2017) (available here). These two decisions illustrate how courts continue to grapple with the distinction between “telemarketing” and “informational” calls. Continue reading

D.C. Circuit refutes FCC’s Authority to Require Opt-out Notices on Solicited Faxes . . . and Chairman Pai Agrees

In a post immediately following the November 8, 2016 oral argument in Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, No. 14-1234 (D.C. Cir.), we noted that, based on the lines of questioning from the bench, the three judge panel of Judges Brett M. Kavanaugh, Cornelia T.L. Pillard, and A. Raymond Randolph appeared to be leaning toward a 2-1 decision with Judges Kavanaugh and Randolph likely forming the majority that would find that the FCC was not empowered to require opt-out notices on solicited faxes. On March 31, the DC Circuit issued its opinion and confirmed our analysis, finding in a 2-1 opinion authored by Judge Kavanaugh (joined by Judge Randolph) that “the FCC’s 2006 Solicited Fax Rule is . . . .unlawful to the extent that it requires opt-out notices on solicited faxes.” Slip Op. at 4. The Court therefore vacated the 2006 Fax Order and remanded to the FCC for further proceedings. It declined to address the propriety of the waiver program, finding it moot in light of its holding. Slip. Op. at 11 n.2. Continue reading

Central District of California Holds That Insurance Renewal Notifications Are Not Telemarketing Under the TCPA

The Central District of California recently granted summary judgment to a health insurer after finding that a pre-recorded message delivered to the insured’s cell phone reminding her to review her health plan options for the coming year was not telemarketing. Smith v. Blue Shield of Cal. Life & Health Ins. Co., No. 16cv108 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 13, 2017), ECF No. 73.

In Smith, the plaintiff completed an application for health insurance through California’s Affordable Care Act Healthcare Marketplace, Covered California. As part of that application process, Plaintiff provided her cell phone number as “the best number at which to contact her.” As required by law, the insurance was set to automatically renew for 2016, and in 2015, Blue Shield attempted to contact Smith by sending written materials to her mailing address (as also required by law) to inform her of the changes to her plan and provide her with alternatives. Plaintiff’s materials, however, were returned to Blue Shield as undeliverable. As with other insureds whose materials were returned, Blue Shield followed up with a pre-recorded message stating in relevant part: “This is an important message from Blue Shield of California. It’s time to review your 2016 health plan options and see what’s new. Earlier this month, we mailed you information about your 2016 plan and benefit changes. It compares your current health plan to other options from Blue Shield. You can also find out more online at blueshieldca.com. If you have not received your information packet in the mail, or if you have any questions, please call the number on the back of your member ID card.” Plaintiff received the call on December 3, 2015; on December 6, 2015, she completed an application for a different insurance plan for the 2016 year. Continue reading

Court Finds Plaintiff-Initiated Text Communication Does Not Constitute Express Written Consent

The Eastern District of California recently denied a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, despite the plaintiff having voluntarily initiated the text exchange at issue and having ignored immediately received opt-out notices. Larson v. Harman Mgmt. Corp., No. 16-0219, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 149267 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 27, 2016). Continue reading

D.C. Circuit Hears Oral Argument in Cross Appeals of Fax Waiver Order

On November 8, 2016, a three judge panel (Judges Brett M. Kavanaugh, Cornelia T.L. Pillard, and A. Raymond Randolph) of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral argument in Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, No. 14-1234. The argument (which lasted ninety minutes) was divided into two portions: argument regarding whether the FCC had authority to require the inclusion of opt-out notices on solicited faxes, and argument regarding whether the FCC was authorized to grant retroactive waivers of that requirement. Our prior posts on the appeal can be found here, here, and here. The audio recording of the argument is available here. Continue reading

Plaintiff Petitioners File Notice of Supplemental Authority in Consolidated Appeal of Anda Order

On October 13, 2016, counsel for class action plaintiffs (“Plaintiff Petitioners”) in Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, No. 14-1234, filed a notice of supplemental authority with the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, arguing that the court’s recent decision in PHH Corp. v. CFPB, No. 15-1177, 2016 WL 5898801 (D.C. Cir. Oct. 11, 2016), supports their arguments that the FCC’s October 2014 Anda Order (the “Anda Order”) “constitutes an impermissible retroactive legislative or adjudicatory rule” and violates separation of powers principles. Continue reading

Reconsidering The Traceability Element of Constitutional Standing

In TCPA Blog’s latest column for Law360, Michael Daly, Justin Kay and Victoria Andrews addressed the issue of an alleged injury’s traceability to an alleged TCPA violation, which was recently highlighted in Romero v. Dep’t Stores Nat’l Bank and Ewing v. SQM US Inc. The United States District Court of the Southern District of California dismissed both cases based on a lack of constitutional standing because the alleged injuries could not be specifically traced back to the use of an Automatic Telephone Dialing System (“ATDS”). The decisions explained that, if the alleged injury would have been the same had the calls been dialed manually, then it could not be traced to use of an ATDS:

The court reasoned that “Mr. Ewing would have been no better off had Defendants dialed his number manually” since “[h]e would have had to expend the same amount of time answering and addressing Defendants’ manually dialed telephone call and would have incurred the same amount of battery depletion,” and cited McNamara v. City of Chicago, 138 F.3d 1219, 1221 (7th Cir. 1998) for the proposition that “‘[a] plaintiff who would have been no better off had the defendant refrained from the unlawful acts of which the plaintiff is complaining does not have standing under Article III of the Constitution to challenge those acts in a suit in federal court.’” Id. at 5:4-12. Because the plaintiff “did not suffer an injury in fact traceable to Defendants’ violation of the TCPA,” he lacked “standing to make a claim for the TCPA violation here.” Id. at 4:14-16.

The column examines the Romero and Ewing decisions and explores whether other courts will accept this defense in future TCPA cases.

Read “Reconsidering ‘Traceability’ Element of TCPA Standing.”

Can 1 Call Or Text Cause Injury Under TCPA?

In TCPA Blog’s latest Law360 column, Mike Daly, Justin Kay, and Victoria Andrews examine the differences in courts’ decisions regarding whether the receipt of a single call or text can be considered concrete harm for the purposes of constitutional standing in TCPA actions. The article first discusses state law claims that are routinely dismissed for lack of sufficient injury because the plaintiff alleged receipt of only one fax or text.  It then reviews recent TCPA claims that have been dismissed based upon similar reasoning, and compares them against those that have found that any alleged violation of the statute establishes sufficient injury to confer constitutional standing.  In doing so, the article addresses why the second line of cases employs faulty reasoning and fails to adhere to Congress’ intent and goals in enacting the TCPA: Continue reading

Oral Argument Scheduled In The Consolidated Appeal From The FCC’s October 2014 Anda Order

After recently scheduling oral argument in the consolidated appeal from the July 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has scheduled oral argument in the consolidated appeal from the Federal Communication Commission’s (“FCC”) October 2014 Final Order (the “Anda Order”) for Tuesday, November 8, 2016.  As we previously reported, in the Anda Order the FCC found that it had the statutory authority to  promulgate a rule requiring  that the opt-out notice Congress specified in the Junk Fax Prevention Act (“JFPA”) must be present on faxes for the sender to take advantage of the Established Business Relationship (“EBR”) exemption must also appear on solicited faxes. The FCC also decided that, because of reasonable confusion surrounding the rule, there was good cause to waive the rule for fax senders who had previously sent solicited faxes without an opt-out notice. Following the release of the Anda Order, both class action plaintiffs (“Plaintiff Petitioners”) and class action defendants (“Defendant Petitioners”) filed cross-appeals, which were consolidated and centralized in the D.C. Circuit as Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley, et al. v. FCC, No. 14-1234. Continue reading

FCC and District Court Provide Additional Clarity to the TCPA’s Emergency Purpose Exception

Over two years ago, we first argued that a pharmacist’s prescription refill reminder calls fell within the emergency purpose exception to the TCPA in Kolinek v. Walgreen Co. (N.D. Ill.).  The TCPA, of course, prohibits many types of autodialed or pre-recorded/artificial voice calls to cell phones if made without the prior express consent of the called party, except where the calls are made “for emergency purposes.” 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A). In Kolinek, the court held at the motion to dismiss stage that further factual development was necessary to evaluate whether the emergency purpose exemption precluded plaintiff’s claims because the complaint did not allege sufficient detail regarding the nature of the calls. Although the case settled before the court had the opportunity to rule on the issue on summary judgment, the court acknowledged the viability of the emergency purposes defense as a basis for approving the class action settlement despite objections that the settlement fund was a tiny fraction of potential liabilities. Continue reading