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.
On December 2nd, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Inc. (“NACDS”) submitted an amicus brief in support of member organization and petitioner Rite Aid in the consolidated appeal of the FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order (the “Order”) in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. See ACA Int’l, et al. v. FCC, No. 15-1211 (D.C. Cir.). We reported earlier that Rite Aid filed its opening brief focusing on the healthcare-related portions of the Order on November 25th, the same day the joint petitioners filed their opening brief. The NACDS notes that it also supports the joint petitioners’ arguments related to reassigned numbers, automatic telephone dialing systems, and revocation of consent but submitted a separate amicus brief to address the impact of the Order on critical patient healthcare notifications. Brief at 2 n.1.
On November 25th, petitioner Rite Aid Hdqrtrs. Corp. (“Rite Aid”) filed its opening brief in the consolidated appeal of the FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order (the “Order”) in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. See ACA Int’l, et al. v. FCC, No. 15-1211 (D.C. Cir.). Although Rite Aid supports the opening brief filed by the joint petitioners on the same day, it obtained permission to file a short separate brief focusing on the healthcare-related portions of the Order. (Whereas the joint petitioners’ opening brief was limited to 14,000 words, Rite Aid’s opening brief was limited to 2,500 words.)
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler released a fact sheet and issued a blog post this week announcing that he had circulated a proposed order that would rule on the numerous petitions that companies have filed with the FCC seeking clarity on the TCPA rules. According to the Chairman, his proposal reflected in the draft order would “close loopholes and strengthen consumer protections already on the books.” The FCC is expected to vote on the Chairman’s proposal at its monthly meeting currently scheduled for June 18, 2015.
Although details have not been made public, the statements from Chairman Wheeler provide some insight as to what he has proposed:
As we’ve noted in the past, there are a number of TPCA petitions for declaratory ruling or requests for interpretation of the TCPA statute or FCC rules on a range of issues relating to the definition of an autodialer, seeking a range of common sense rules or processes for dealing with recycled number issues, among others. A recently filed Petition, by Blackboard, Inc. (“Blackboard”), represents a new wrinkle in the fabric of interesting technological and practical challenges under the TCPA that can adversely affect the delivery of important and timely information to parties interested in receiving it. Blackboard is an educational services platform provider seeking clarification from the FCC that the TCPA does not apply to “informational, non-commercial, non-advertising, and non-telemarketing autodialed and prerecorded messages sent by Blackboard’s educational institution customers because those calls are made for ‘emergency purposes.’”