On May 3, 2018, a broad range of 18 industry groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce petitioned the FCC to take much-needed action to curb abusive TCPA litigation stemming from prior FCC and court interpretations of the definition of an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”). The petition naturally followed from the D.C. Circuit’s decision in ACA Int’l v. Fed. Commc’ns Comm’n, 885 F.3d 687 (D.C. Cir. 2018) to vacate the FCC’s ATDS interpretation contained in the 2015 FCC Declaratory Ruling and Order (“2015 TCPA Order”) as unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious. The petitioners seek clarity on the definition of an ATDS so businesses can better understand how they can effectively communicate with their customers without fear of liability under Section 227(b) of the TCPA. Continue reading
On February 15, 2018, leaders from the government and private practice came together to discuss the current TCPA and TSR legal and compliance landscape, as well as where the FCC and FTC are likely to direct their efforts going forward. The Federal Communications Bar Association’s Privacy and Data Security Committee assembled two tremendous panels to discuss these hot-button issues. Continue reading
The Supreme Court today denied the petition for certiorari filed by the class action plaintiffs in Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, thus leaving in place the D.C. Circuit’s ruling that “although the [Telephone Consumer Protection Act] requires an opt-out notice on unsolicited fax advertisements, the Act does not require a similar opt-out notice on solicited fax advertisements . . . . [nor does it] grant the FCC authority to require opt-out notices on solicited fax advertisements.” 852 F.3d 1078, 1082 (D.C. Cir. 2017). Our summary of the briefing on the petition is available here.
As we’ve discussed previously, the D.C. Circuit’s ruling (binding nationwide pursuant to the Hobbs Act) makes it much tougher for plaintiffs in TCPA fax suits to certify a class. The plaintiffs’ bar has typically sought to certify classes based on violations of the opt-out notice requirement for solicited faxes, because a class defined in such a way side-stepped the inherently individualized issue of whether the fax was solicited or not. With the opt-out notice requirement for solicited faxes eliminated, plaintiffs’ attorneys have a much tougher challenge. Indeed, in Alpha Tech Pet, Inc. v. Lagasse, LLC, No. 16 C 513, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 182499 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 3, 2017), a district court relying on the D.C. Circuit’s decision found that individualized issues of consent precluded certification of a class of fax recipients where certification could not be premised on whether the faxes included an opt-out notice. The plaintiff in Alpha Tech has appealed that decision, arguing (among other things) that the D.C. Circuit’s decision is not binding in the Seventh Circuit. Given the significance of this issue for the plaintiff’s bar, we can expect to continue to see collateral challenges like this to the repeal of the FCC’s solicited fax rule notwithstanding that the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Bais Yaakov is now final.
On January 30, 2018, briefing closed on the petition for certiorari filed in the Supreme Court by the class action plaintiffs in Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC. The class action plaintiffs are seeking review of the D.C. Circuit’s March 2017 decision (discussed at length here, here, here, and here) holding that the FCC exceeded its statutory authority when it promulgated regulations in 2006 requiring that a fax advertisement sent with the prior express consent of the recipient include an opt-out notice because “although the Act requires an opt-out notice on unsolicited fax advertisements, the Act does not require a similar opt-out notice on solicited fax advertisements . . . . [nor does it] grant the FCC authority to require opt-out notices on solicited fax advertisements.” Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, 852 F.3d 1078, 1082 (D.C. Cir. 2017). Continue reading
Following the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, 852 F.3d 1078 (D.C. Cir. Mar. 31, 2017), we explained on this blog and elsewhere that the issue of whether a fax advertisement is solicited or not would come back into play in many cases and make it much harder for the plaintiffs’ bar to certify a class of recipients. And that is precisely what occurred in a recent decision from the Northern District of Illinois in Alpha Tech Pet, Inc. v. LaGasse, LLC, No. 16-cv-513 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 3, 2017): the court granted defendants’ motion to deny class certification. In the process, the court also slammed the door on several arguments proffered by plaintiffs’ counsel in an effort to evade the impact of Bais Yaakov.
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
On July 13, 2017, the FCC sought comment on how it should address the problem of autodialed or prerecorded calls to “reassigned numbers”—numbers that once were used by an individual from whom the caller obtained consent, but have since been recycled and given to a different individual. Reassigned numbers pose a risk of extensive TCPA liability even for those callers that try hard to do everything right, as there is no perfect system to accurately identify all reassigned numbers at the moment they are reassigned. It is little surprise, then, that dozens of commenters chose to weigh in on the FCC’s proposal to create a database for this purpose.
At its monthly Open Meeting on June 22, the FCC voted to issue a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL) finding that Adrian Abramovich (Abramovich) apparently perpetrated one of the largest spoofed robocall campaigns that the agency has ever investigated. The FCC, through its Enforcement Bureau, concurrently released a separate Citation and Order notifying Abramovich that he also violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) as well as the federal wire fraud statute by making these same illegal telemarketing calls to emergency lines, wireless phones, and residential phones, and that the calls included prerecorded messages falsely claimed affiliation with well-known U.S. travel and hotel companies, thus defrauding unsuspecting consumers receiving these calls. 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
As we predicted, the D.C. Circuit today denied the plaintiff’s petition for a rehearing en banc of the panel decision striking down the FCC’s regulations requiring opt-out notices on solicited faxes. The per curiam order notes only that “[u]pon consideration of the petition for rehearing en banc, the response thereto, and the absence of a request by any member of the court for a vote, it is ORDERED that the petition be denied.” This result is hardly surprising given (i) the FCC Chairman’s current position that the panel decision overturning the FCC was correct (an anomaly that is the result of turnover at the Commission following the election results in November 2016) and (ii) the infrequency with which petitions for rehearing en banc are granted. We expect that the plaintiffs’ bar will continue its appeal efforts via a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, but also expect that effort to meet the same fate as the petition for rehearing.