What’s My Line? The FCC Seeks Comment on a Petition Seeking a Definition of “Residential Line”

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

Death And Taxes Are Certain; TCPA Claims Are Not

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

Tippecanoe and the TCPA, Too, Two

Following up on our March 9 reminder, and just in time for Super Tuesday II, the Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau issued an Enforcement Advisory on March 14 titled, “Biennial Reminder for Political Campaigns about Robocall and Text Abuse.” The advisory (similar to past advisories) is a reminder to “political campaigns and calling services that there are clear limits on the use of autodialed calls or texts (known as ‘robocalls’) and prerecorded voice calls.” The advisory summarizes the TCPA’s regulations on (1) calls to cell phones, (2) calls to landlines, (3) identification requirements for prerecorded voice messages, and (4) “line seizure” restrictions. The advisory also includes an “At a Glance” summary of regulations as applied to Political Calls and a series of Frequently Asked Questions with contact information for the Enforcement Bureau for those who have unanswered questions or lingering concerns. Continue reading

FCC Releases Order Denying Club Texting’s 2009 Petition on Text Broadcaster Liability Standards

On January 11, 2016, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (“Bureau”) acted on a petition filed in 2009, and denied Club Texting, Inc.’s (“Club Texting”) petition for declaratory ruling, which asked the FCC to clarify that text broadcasters are subject to the same TCPA liability standard as that applied to fax broadcasters. See In the Matter of Rules and Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991; Petition of Club Texting, Inc. for Declaratory Ruling, Order, CG Docket 02-278 (Jan. 11, 2016) (“Jan. 11 Order”); see also Club Texting, Inc. Petition for Declaratory Ruling that Text Broadcasters Are Not “Senders of Text Messages Under § 227(b)(1) of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, CG Docket 02-278 (Apr. 25, 2009) (“Club Texting Petition”).

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FCC Responds In Consolidated Appeal From Its July 2015 Omnibus Ruling

On Friday, January 15, 2016, the Federal Communications Commission filed its response to the arguments of the joint Petitioners in the consolidated appeal from its July 10, 2015 Omnibus Ruling. The Commission’s brief addresses the scope of its statutory authority, the definition of an “automatic telephone dialing system” (“ATDS”), the meaning of “called party” and the potential liability for calls to recycled numbers, the ability to revoke consent, healthcare-related calls and the emergency purpose exception, and First Amendment challenges to the Commission’s interpretations of the statute. Its main arguments are summarized below.

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National Grid’s Limited Waiver of Caller Identification Requirements Granted by the FCC

The FCC continues to dispose of pending petitions or requests for waiver of its TCPA rules. One slightly unusual request was the petition filed last February by National Grid USA, Inc. (“National Grid”) requesting a limited waiver of section 64.1200(b)(1) of the Commission’s rules to allow it to satisfy its TCPA caller identification requirements by providing a “doing business as” (“DBA”) name it had registered with state utility commissions when placing prerecorded voice calls rather than its legal name. See In the Matter of Rules and Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, Petition for Declaratory Ruling and/or Waiver submitted by National Grid USA, Inc., CG Docket No. 02-278, filed Feb. 18, 2014 (“National Grid Petition”).

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FCC Issues Citations To Lyft And First National Bank Due To Alleged TCPA Violations

On September 11, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau issued two similar citations highlighting telemarketing practices by Lyft, Inc. and the First National Bank (FNB). These Citations stated that each entity had violated the TCPA by failing to allow their respective customers to opt out of receiving telemarketing messages. As we previously reported, the Bureau during the summer had alerted PayPal to similar concerns about its subscription agreement. After the warning, PayPal modified its agreement so as to permit PayPal users to opt out of receiving automated telemarketing messages. These recent citations are shots across the bow at other commercial entities with messaging policies that the FCC views as too restrictive.

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A Busy Summer at the FCC: The Commission Releases Its Fax Waiver Order

On August 28, 2015, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (“Bureau”), on authority delegated from the Federal Communications Commission, released an Order (“August 28 Order”) granting 117 petitions seeking a retroactive waiver of the opt-out notice requirement for solicited faxes (47 C.F.R § 64.1200(a)(4)(iv)).  The August 28 Order was the first time since the October 30, 2014 Fax Order (reported on here, wherein the FCC retroactively waived the applicability of Section 64.1200(a)(4)(iv) as to 24 petitioners, and invited similarly-situated parties to file petitions of their own requesting the same relief) that the Bureau addressed the applicability of Section 64.1200(a)(4)(iv).  The petitions granted on August 28 were filed between September 30, 2014, and June 16, 2015.

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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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Internet Association Asks FCC To Distinguish Internet Platforms From Their Users For TCPA Purposes

In June, the Internet Association (“IA”)—which represents Internet giants such as eBay, Facebook, Google, Amazon, LinkedIn and Twitter, among others—suggested that the FCC clarify that Internet companies which “facilitate their users to communicate” are not “not caller[s] or sender[s] (or the initiator[s] of a call or text) for purposes of the TCPA.” In a letter dated June 11, 2015, the IA addressed what it viewed as an uncertainty under TCPA law: namely the extent to which any email and/or social media platform may potentially be liable under the TCPA for the calls or messages initiated by any one of the enormous number of users of the platform.

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