FCC Proposes $120 Million in Fines for Serial Spoofer and Warns that Spoofer’s TCPA and Wire Fraud Activities Must Cease

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

Contracts 101: Second Circuit Holds That Black Letter Contract Law Precludes Revocation of Consent Claims under the TCPA

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

D.C. Circuit Denies Petition for Rehearing En Banc in Appeal of Solicited Fax Rule

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.

Plaintiff Intervenor Petitioners Challenge Majority Opinion in Bais Yaakov, Fail to Address Standing to Do So

As we’ve previously reported, on March 31, the DC Circuit issued a 2-1 opinion in the Bais Yaakov appeal holding that “the FCC’s 2006 Solicited Fax Rule is . . . .unlawful to the extent that it requires opt-out notices on solicited faxes.” Slip Op. at 4. Given the profound impact we expect that ruling to have in TCPA fax litigation, it is no surprise that the plaintiffs’ bar is fighting that decision: on April 28, 2017, the plaintiff intervenors in the Bais Yaakov appeal filed a petition for rehearing en banc before the full D.C. Circuit. Continue reading

FCC’s Loss on Fax Rule Could Curb Explosion of TCPA Suits

TCPA Blog contributor Justin Kay was recently quoted in the Law360 article, “FCC’s Loss on Fax Rule Could Curb Explosion of TCPA Suits.” The D.C. Circuit’s recent decision negating an FCC regulation requiring opt-out notices on solicited faxes is likely to have long-term consequences for TCPA class actions. Continue reading

D.C. Circuit refutes FCC’s Authority to Require Opt-out Notices on Solicited Faxes . . . and Chairman Pai Agrees

In a post immediately following the November 8, 2016 oral argument in Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, No. 14-1234 (D.C. Cir.), we noted that, based on the lines of questioning from the bench, the three judge panel of Judges Brett M. Kavanaugh, Cornelia T.L. Pillard, and A. Raymond Randolph appeared to be leaning toward a 2-1 decision with Judges Kavanaugh and Randolph likely forming the majority that would find that the FCC was not empowered to require opt-out notices on solicited faxes. On March 31, the DC Circuit issued its opinion and confirmed our analysis, finding in a 2-1 opinion authored by Judge Kavanaugh (joined by Judge Randolph) that “the FCC’s 2006 Solicited Fax Rule is . . . .unlawful to the extent that it requires opt-out notices on solicited faxes.” Slip Op. at 4. The Court therefore vacated the 2006 Fax Order and remanded to the FCC for further proceedings. It declined to address the propriety of the waiver program, finding it moot in light of its holding. Slip. Op. at 11 n.2. Continue reading

Looking Lonely: Commenters Show Little Love for Serial Plaintiffs’ Petition

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

FCC Releases Public Notice on Petition to Eliminate Exceptions to Written Consent Requirement

On February 8, 2017, the FCC issued a public notice seeking comment on a petition for rulemaking and declaratory ruling (the “Petition”) filed by Craig Moskowitz and Craig Cunningham (the “Petitioners”). The Petition seeks the initiation of a rulemaking to overturn the FCC’s allegedly “improper interpretation that ‘prior express consent’ includes implied consent resulting from a party’s providing a telephone number to the caller.” Continue reading

The Tide Is Turning: Ajit Pai Chosen To Head FCC

On July 10, 2015, a sharply divided FCC issued a Declaratory Ruling and Order (the “July 2015 Order”) that missed the mark. The July 2015 Order purported to expand the scope of the TCPA through its unsupported redefinition of an “automatic telephone dialing system,” create an untenable one call “safe harbor” for reassigned number liability, and permit parties to revoke consent through any “reasonable” means. The July 2015 Order is presently on appeal in the D.C. Circuit, and there is hope that the Court, which heard argument on October 19, 2016, will undo its pronouncements, which have had broad implications for businesses that place calls and send text messages to consumers for telemarketing or informational purposes. These companies have faced potentially crushing liability through a huge wave of TCPA actions (both proposed class actions and individual claims) as well as pre-suit demands, many of which have been initiated by opportunistic plaintiffs’ lawyers and serial plaintiffs. Continue reading

FCC Denies Petition by Mortgage Bankers Association to Exempt Certain Mortgage Servicing Calls from Prior Express Consent Requirement

On November 15, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau denied a petition by Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA)[1] that sought an exemption from the FCC’s prior express consent requirement for non-telemarketing residential mortgage servicing calls to wireless numbers. In its Order, the Bureau concluded that MBA had failed to show (1) that the calls om question would be free of charge to consumers; and (2) that the parties seeking relief should be able to send non-time-sensitive calls to consumers without their consent.[2]

The Bureau’s Order explained that the TCPA “reflects Congress’ recognition of the potential costs and privacy risks imposed on wireless consumers from the use of autodialer equipment, which can generate large numbers of unwanted calls,” and accordingly, the FCC has generally attempted to balance and accommodate the legitimate business interests of callers in addition to recognized consumer privacy interests.[3] Continue reading