Technology for Effective TCPA Defense: What You Need to Know

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TCPA Blog contributor Michael Stortz will co-present a LiveVox webinar on “Technology for Effective TCPA Defense: What You Need to Know” on Wednesday, November 30, 2016. This webinar will provide an in-depth look at how to effectively utilize technology as part of a multifaceted TCPA defense strategy. Panelists will discuss best practices for the initial technology assessment; managing the ongoing assessment of technology; and leveraging technology in defending a TCPA claim. The webinar will also examine the technology behind TCPA suits, including how to assess what is—and is not—an automatic telephone dialing system, and how courts are responding to the use of technology.

Registration for the webinar can be found at the LiveVox website.

Parties Present Their Arguments Before The D.C. Circuit in The Consolidated Appeal

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

DC Circuit Court of Appeals Hears Extended Oral Argument In The Consolidated Appeal

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.

Oral Argument In The Consolidated Appeal To Be Heard This Upcoming Wednesday

As we previously reported, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit scheduled oral argument for October 19, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. in the consolidated appeal from the FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order. Each side has been allotted twenty minutes of oral argument time, with petitioner Rite Aid arguing for five minutes on the healthcare-related issues of the Order, and the rest of the petitioners arguing fifteen minutes. Paul Werner from Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP is scheduled to argue on behalf of petitioner Rite Aid, Shay Dvoretzky from Jones Day is scheduled to argue on behalf of the remaining joint petitioners, and Scott Noveck is scheduled to argue on behalf of the FCC. The argument will be heard before Judges Srinivasan, Pillard, and Edwards.

For those planning on attending, doors open around 9:10 a.m. and entry into the courtroom is on a first-come, first-served basis. Instructions on attendance can be found here. We plan to be in attendance and report back after the oral argument.

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.”

Court Finds That Equipment That Initiates Calls With Electronic Point and Click System Is Not An ATDS

In Pozo v. Stellar Recovery Collection Agency, Inc., No. 15-0929 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 2, 2016), the Middle District of Florida recently entered summary judgment against the plaintiff because it determined that an ATDS had not been used to call her.

The defendant in Pozo used a web-based dialing program called Human Call Initiator (“HCI”) to initiate the calls. HCI uses a “point-and-click” process that allows calls to be initiated by human “clicker agents.” Specifically, the program will not initiate a call until a clicker agent manually confirms in a dialogue box that the call should be made to that particular number. If a call is answered, the clicker agent then refers the call to a “closer agent” who speaks with the debtor. The program also allows clicker agents to view the availability of closer agents and will not initiate a call unless a closer agent is available. Continue reading

Parties Seek Twenty Minutes Of Oral Argument In The Consolidated Appeal From The FCC’s July 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order

Yesterday, the petitioners in the consolidated appeal from the FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order filed an unopposed motion seeking twenty minutes of oral argument for each side. As we previously reported, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit scheduled oral argument for October 19, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. in the consolidated appeal.

In requesting twenty minutes of oral argument time, the petitioners note the importance and the complexity of the issues raised in their petitions for review. Namely, “the kinds of equipment that fall within the [TCPA’s] restrictions on calls to wireless numbers from ‘automatic telephone dialing systems,” “the scope of liability for those who call numbers that (unbeknownst to them) have been reassigned from one, consenting consumer to another, non-consenting one,” “the methods by which consumers may revoke consent[,]” and the types of “informational healthcare-related” calls that fall outside of the TCPA’s scope.  As such, the petitioners request that each side be allotted twenty minutes of oral argument time with petitioner Rite Aid arguing five minutes on the healthcare-related issues of the Order and the rest of the petitioners arguing fifteen minutes.

We will continue to monitor the pending appeal and report on any significant developments before and after oral argument on October 19th.

Oral Argument Scheduled In The Consolidated Appeal From The FCC’s July 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order

Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit scheduled oral argument for October 19, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. in the consolidated appeal from the FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order (“Order”). As we previously reported, ACA International filed the first petition for review on the same day the Order was issued. That and subsequent appeals were centralized in the D.C. Circuit by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.  The Joint Petitioners filed their opening brief on November 25, 2015, Rite Aid filed a separate brief the same day that focused on healthcare-related issues, the FCC responded to both briefs on January 15, 2016, and the parties filed final briefs on February 24, 2016. Continue reading

Federal Court Schools Plaintiff on Limits of TCPA

The Middle District of Florida recently entered summary judgment in favor of a school board, reasoning that it is not a “person” that is subject to suit under the TCPA. See Lambert v. Seminole Cty. Sch. Bd., No. 15-0078 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 21, 2016).  The decision creates a potentially insurmountable obstacle for plaintiffs who have taken to setting their sights on school districts and other well intentioned government actors.

In Lambert, the defendant allegedly made 537 calls to the plaintiff’s cellphone shortly after he received a reassigned number. The calls used prerecorded voice prompts and messages that were meant to communicate with prospective substitute teachers, to whom the school district had issued five-digit identification codes. The plaintiff alleged that he was not the intended recipient of the calls and that he neither worked as a substitute teacher nor received an identification code. Continue reading

Briefing In The Consolidated Appeal From The July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order Is Complete

On Wednesday the Joint Petitioners and the FCC filed their final briefs in the consolidated appeal from the FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order, which is pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Their briefs are summarized below.

The Joint Petitioners’ Final Brief

The Joint Petitioners’ final brief reiterates their primary challenges to the FCC’s rulings regarding the definition of an ATDS, the identity of the “called party” from which consent must be obtained, and the extent of that party’s ability to revoke that consent. Continue reading