As businesses increasingly elect to use text messaging to communicate with consumers, they should be mindful that text messages are a frequent target of TCPA claims. FCC regulations require different degrees of consent depending on whether communications are commercial or informational; whereas businesses must have only “prior express consent” for purely informational texts, they must have “prior express written consent” for texts that include an advertisement or constitute telemarketing. (Certain other texts, for example those sent for an emergency purpose, are exempt from those requirements.) That begs the question: what qualifies as advertising or telemarketing such that the higher degree of consent is required? Continue reading
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
On October 6, 2017, the FCC issued a Public Notice that seeks comment on a Petition that was recently filed by the Credit Union National Association. Specifically, the Public Notice seeks comment on whether it should “adopt an established business relationship exemption from the [TCPA’s] prior-express-consent requirement for informational autodialed or artificial- or prerecorded-voice calls (including text messages) made by or on behalf of credit unions to their members’ wireless phone numbers,” or, alternatively, whether it should “exercise its statutory authority to exempt from the TCPA’s prior-express-consent requirement credit union informational calls made to its members’ wireless phone numbers that are in fact free to the called party.” Continue reading
Last week the Eleventh Circuit held that a consumer can revoke her consent not only orally but also partially. See Schweitzer v. Comenity Bank, No. 16-10498 (11th Cir. Aug. 10, 2017). The rule it announced would be a double-edged sword that makes it more difficult not only for defendants to comply with the TPCA, but also for plaintiffs to satisfy Rule 23.
The plaintiff in Schweitzer provided her cellular telephone number—and, by doing so, her consent to be called at that number—when she applied for a card from the defendant. See Opinion at 3. When she failed to make timely payments on that credit card a year later, the defendant allegedly placed “hundreds” of “automated” calls regarding her debt. The plaintiff answered at least two of those calls. Id. During the first, she said “And, if you guys cannot call me, like, in the morning and during the work day, because I’m working, and I can’t really be talking about these things while I’m at work.” Id. at 4. During the second, she said “Can you just please stop calling? I’d appreciate that, thank you very much.” Id. The defendant continued calling after the first exchange, but stopped calling after the second. Id. Continue reading
The explosion of litigation under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) has continued through the second quarter of 2017. Businesses have been anxiously awaiting a ruling from the D.C. Circuit in the appeal of the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) July 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order as well as reforms from the FCC itself. As the wait continues, promising developments have been emerging from the courts. On June 22, 2017, the Second Circuit—in a common sense and practical opinion in Reyes v. Lincoln Auto. Fin. Servs., No. 16-2104 (2d Cir.)—acknowledged that contract is king and that a party cannot unilaterally modify its terms. In affirming summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the court cited the Restatement (Second) of Contracts and explained that “[i]t is black letter law that one party may not alter a bilateral contract by revoking a term without the consent of a counterparty.” Its opinion in this TCPA action has significant implications for businesses that have standard contracts with their customers. And it is a welcome step in the right direction. Continue reading
We’ve previously reported on the D.C. Circuit’s March 31 decision, which held that “the FCC’s 2006 Solicited Fax Rule is . . . unlawful to the extent that it requires opt-out notices on solicited faxes.” Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, No. 14-1234, Slip. Op. at 4 (D.C. Cir. 2017). And as we recently discussed, the plaintiff intervenors in that case have sought a rehearing en banc. Given the significance of the D.C. Circuit’s decision in TCPA class actions, it would not be a surprise if the en banc petition is just the beginning of the plaintiffs’ bar’s efforts to attack the D.C. Circuit’s decision. While the D.C. Circuit’s ruling is welcome news to defendants in TCPA actions, the Eastern District of Missouri recently dealt another blow to the plaintiffs’ bar. In that regard, shortly before the D.C. Circuit’s ruling, a district court held that an allegedly deficient opt-out notice in a fax the plaintiff invited did not give rise to a concrete injury under Spokeo, and dismissed the case for lack of Article III standing. St. Louis Heart Ctr., Inc. v. Nomax, Inc., No. 4:15-CV-517 RLW, 2017 U,S., Dist, LEXIS 39411 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 20, 2017). Continue reading
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
The initial comments are in on the Petition of serial plaintiffs Craig Moskowitz and Craig Cunningham to require written consent for autodialed informational calls, and reactions are overwhelmingly negative. A diverse group of trade associations, nonprofits, medical institutions, and others flooded the docket with over thirty formal comments opposing the Petition. In addition to these formal comments, there were several short, informal comments submitted via the FCC’s “express” filing system by employees of credit unions and other financial institutions opposing the Petition. Just three comments expressed support. Continue reading