May 4, 2017 was Star Wars Day (“May the Fourth . . .”), but it also marked the date of FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly’s speech to the ACA International Washington Insights Conference. Commissioner O’Rielly opened with a joke about the number of times ACA had to call him before he had the opportunity to accept its speaking invitation, and then moved on to discuss a number of ways in which he feels the TCPA has been expanded beyond the intended scope of the statute. O’Rielly cited ACA research showing that between 2010 and 2015 there was a 948 percent increase in litigants involved in TCPA-related lawsuits, but noted that “despite this, there is reason for optimism” with the change in FCC leadership. Continue reading
On February 8, 2017, the FCC issued a public notice seeking comment on a petition for rulemaking and declaratory ruling (the “Petition”) filed by Craig Moskowitz and Craig Cunningham (the “Petitioners”). The Petition seeks the initiation of a rulemaking to overturn the FCC’s allegedly “improper interpretation that ‘prior express consent’ includes implied consent resulting from a party’s providing a telephone number to the caller.” Continue reading
Following an explosion in September in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City and discovery of other unexploded homemade bomb devices, the New York Police Department identified a suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, who was sought in connection with the bombings and attempted bombings in Manhattan and New Jersey. For the first time ever in this circumstance, the NYPD used a communications tool initially known as the “Commercial Mobile Alert System” (CMAS) and later renamed to be “Wireless Emergency Alerts” or WEA to function as an electronic wanted poster. This was in contrast to more familiar uses of this emergency communications capability, such as the localized transmission of severe weather advisories or Amber Alerts. Under FCC rules, these alerts are originated by authorized federal, state and local governments, and they currently are used to geographically target 90-character messages that fall into three distinct categories: Presidential, Imminent Threat, and Amber Alerts. Continue reading
On August 11, 2016, the FCC released a Report and Order implementing Section 301 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (the “Budget Act”), which exempts autodialed and prerecorded calls “made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States” from the TCPA’s prior express consent requirement. The Budget Act provision also authorizes the FCC to adopt rules to “restrict or limit the number and duration” of any wireless calls made to collect debts owed to or guaranteed by the federal government. Continue reading
For some time the FCC’s Chairman, Tom Wheeler, has been calling on wireless and wireline carriers alike to take more aggressive steps to assist consumers in preventing unwelcome or unsolicited calls and spam messages. The FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling, for example, contained a discussion focused on resolving the question of whether carriers had a legal obligation to transmit all calls without blocking. In the Matter of Rules & Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, 30 FCC Rcd 7961, ¶¶ 152-63 (July 10, 2015). The Declaratory Ruling affirmed that nothing in the Communications Act or FCC rules or orders prohibits carriers from offering or implementing call blocking technologies for those customers who choose to use them. Id. Continue reading
The FCC recently issued a declaratory ruling addressing petitions that had been filed by Broadnet Teleservices LLC (“Broadnet”), National Employment Network Association (“NENA”), and RTI International (“RTI”), each of which sought guidance or clarification on the extent of the TCPA’s governmental exception when a contractor is placing calls or texts pursuant to its work on behalf of the government. Each of the petitioners provide, or have members that provide, calling services on behalf of federal government entities; Broadnet offers teletown hall calling services for state and local governments as well and RTI performs social science survey work for entities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). NENA represents providers of employment services to beneficiaries of Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. These providers are required to contact program-eligible beneficiaries to provide information about potential programs and services.
Last week, the FCC released a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”) detailing its proposals to implement the provisions of the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act that allow greater flexibility under the TCPA for calls placed relating to federally-held debt. Rules and Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, CG Docket No. 02-278, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (May 06, 2016). This Act specifically “excepts from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s consent requirement robocalls made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States.” Id. at ¶ 1. The Act set a nine-month deadline for the FCC to adopt rules implementing this exception, which gives the agency until August to adopt these rules. With this NPRM, the FCC sought to “balance the importance of collecting debt owed to the United States and the consumer protections inherent in the TCPA.” Id. The FCC’s rulemaking proceeding will apply to calls and text messages. As has been the case with a number of TCPA matters over the last few years, the FCC Commissioners were deeply divided on the proposals contained in the NPRM. Continue reading
With the TCPA dockets remaining active going into 2016, we decided to put together a list of notable petitions pending at the FCC. The following list provides details on most petitions that the FCC has yet to rule on, including links to the petition and, where applicable, the public notice, some background on the issues implicated by the petitions, and details on important dates associated with the proceeding. Continue reading
On March 31, 2016, the FCC released a public notice (“Public Notice”) seeking comment on a petition for declaratory ruling filed by Todd C. Bank (“Petition”), an attorney who maintains a home-based law practice. As Bank’s Petition notes, the TCPA includes a number of restrictions that apply to residential lines. For example, among them, the TCPA provides that “[i]t shall be unlawful for any person . . . to initiate any telephone call to any residential telephone line using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message without the prior express consent of the called party . . .” See 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(B). In his Petition, Bank argues that these calling restrictions apply to any line registered as a residential telephone line, including those that are in fact used for business purposes by the subscriber. The resolution of this question could have wide-reaching implications for telemarketers, who might as a result have another screen to apply to potential calls as to whether a number held out as a business line is actually a residential line as classified by the telephone service provider. Continue reading
In Hannabury v. Hilton Grand Vacation Co., LLC, No. 14-cv-6126, 2016 WL 1181789 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 25, 2016), the District Court for the Western District of New York held that a named plaintiff’s TCPA claims do not survive his death.
Plaintiff had filed a putative class action against Hilton for placing calls to his cell phone in an attempt to sell interests in timeshare properties, even though he alleged that his phone number was listed on the national Do Not Call Registry. The named plaintiff, however, passed away before moving to certify a class. His estate brought a motion to substitute itself as the named plaintiff. Continue reading