As the 115th Congress Winds Down, a New Senate Bill Proposes Stiffer Penalties for Illegal Robocalling

Reflecting the nearly universal sense by constituents that call spoofing and other illegal forms of robocalls are annoying and unwelcome, on November 15, a bipartisan team of United States senators, Senators Markey, Thune and Wicker, introduced a bill titled the “Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act” also known as the TRACED Act. The bill is designed to provide the FCC and other federal agencies acting in concert with the FCC with additional tools to combat spoofing and other illegal robocalling operations by amending Section 227 of the Communications Act to provide for enhanced civil penalties for violation of TCPA rules. Specifically, the bill would provide the FCC going forward with forfeiture authority to assess civil penalties of up to $10,000 per illegal robocall violation and extend the current FCC statute of limitations to investigate TCPA violations from the current one year to three years. The bill also creates new criminal fines of up to $10,000 per violation that can be trebled if the activity was intentional. The FCC would have 270 days following enactment to develop implementing regulations. The bill does not introduce any changes to the current private right of action provisions of Section 227 of the Act. Continue reading   »

FCC Receives Comments on Definition of ATDS Following the Ninth Circuit’s Decision in Marks v. Crunch San Diego, LLC

We previously described the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Marks v. Crunch San Diego which, contrary to the D.C. Circuit’s ACA International ruling in March of this year, treated the definition of an ATDS expansively, holding that that statutory definition of an ATDS includes equipment that has the capacity (1) to store numbers to be called or (2) to produce numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator. We explained how the Ninth Circuit’s decision represented an improper interpretation of the ATDS statutory language. And we previously reported how the FCC sought expedited public comment on the Marks decision. Continue reading   »

Industry Groups Urge FCC to Clarify ATDS After ACA Int’l

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   »

FCC’s Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Reassigned Numbers Published in Federal Register; Comment Clock Begins

On March 22, 2018, the FCC adopted a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) on reassigned numbers. On April 23, 2018, the FNPRM was published in the Federal Register, triggering the commenting period deadlines. Comments on the FNPRM must be submitted by June 7, and reply comments must be submitted by July 9, 2018. Continue reading   »

FCC Releases Draft Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Reassigned Numbers Database

In anticipation of its March 22 Public Meeting, the FCC on March 1 released a draft of a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking addressing comments received on its earlier Notice of Inquiry on proposals for a database to identify reassigned numbers (FNPRM). The FNPRM was released alongside the FCC’s Public Meeting Agenda. The draft FNPRM primarily seeks comment on: (1) the specific information that callers would need from any reassigned number database; and (2) the best way to make that information available to callers. The draft will be considered for adoption by the full Commission at the meeting. Continue reading   »

Court Compels Arbitration of TCPA Claims Due to Broad Arbitration Agreement with Survival Clause

A recent decision from the Northern District of Ohio highlights the importance of having a carefully drafted arbitration agreement in callers’ customer-facing contracts. See Treinish v. BorrowersFirst, Inc., No. 17-1371, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 145772 (N.D. Ohio Sept. 8, 2017).

The Plaintiff in Treinish had borrowed money from the Defendant. Id. at *1. Their contract contained two notable provisions: a provision that agreed to resolve disputes in arbitration and a provision that consented to receive automated calls from the Defendant and related entities on her cellphone. Id. at *1-2. Continue reading   »

U.S. Senate Votes for More Pai

On Tuesday, October 3, 2017, the Senate confirmed Chairman Ajit Pai to a second term at the FCC, enabling him to potentially stay on as chairman until the end of 2021. Originally appointed by President Obama in 2012, Chairman Pai was a member of the Republican minority on the Commission until early 2017, when former Chairman Tom Wheeler resigned and President Trump elevated Pai to the chairmanship. While Pai’s term technically ended in 2016, FCC rules allowed him to keep serving until the end of 2017 while the Senate considered his re-nomination. Continue reading   »

FCC Seeks Comment on Reassigned Numbers; Dozens of Commenters Answer the Call

On July 13, 2017, the FCC sought comment on how it should address the problem of autodialed or prerecorded calls to “reassigned numbers”—numbers that once were used by an individual from whom the caller obtained consent, but have since been recycled and given to a different individual. Reassigned numbers pose a risk of extensive TCPA liability even for those callers that try hard to do everything right, as there is no perfect system to accurately identify all reassigned numbers at the moment they are reassigned. It is little surprise, then, that dozens of commenters chose to weigh in on the FCC’s proposal to create a database for this purpose.

Continue reading   »

FCC Proposes $120 Million in Fines for Serial Spoofer and Warns that Spoofer’s TCPA and Wire Fraud Activities Must Cease

At its monthly Open Meeting on June 22, the FCC voted to issue a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL) finding that Adrian Abramovich (Abramovich) apparently perpetrated one of the largest spoofed robocall campaigns that the agency has ever investigated. The FCC, through its Enforcement Bureau, concurrently released a separate Citation and Order notifying Abramovich that he also violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) as well as the federal wire fraud statute by making these same illegal telemarketing calls to emergency lines, wireless phones, and residential phones, and that the calls included prerecorded messages falsely claimed affiliation with well-known U.S. travel and hotel companies, thus defrauding unsuspecting consumers receiving these calls. Continue reading   »