Florida Federal Court Stays Putative Class Action to Await Guidance from the FCC and Eleventh Circuit as to What Constitutes an ATDS

It can fairly be said that the statutory definition of “automatic telephone dialing system” (“ATDS”) has generated far more questions than answers—for courts and litigants alike. This is especially true in the wake of ACA International v. FCC, 885 F.3d 687 (D.C. Cir. 2018), where the D.C. Circuit set aside the FCC’s sweeping interpretation of the ATDS definition, and thus handed the baton back to the Commission to provide guidance on what is (and is not) an ATDS. But almost two years later, the FCC has yet to issue its ruling.

In the many TCPA cases that turn on the definition of ATDS, defendants may wish to file a motion to stay the action so that the court can await guidance from the FCC’s anticipated ruling on this issue. Indeed, over the course of the last year, multiple federal judges, at least in Florida, have been willing to grant such motions, particularly because the ATDS definition is also center stage in an appeal pending before the Eleventh Circuit. See Glasser v. Hilton Grand Vacations Co., LLC, No. 18-14499 (11th Cir. filed Oct. 24, 2018).

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Legislation Looking Likely on a Number of TCPA “Hot-Button” Issues

Senate Bill 151, now called “the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act” (the “TRACED Act”), has been reconciled with the House of Representatives’ bipartisan bill House Bill 3375 and was passed in the House on December 4, 2019. This revised amendment has been returned to the Senate for a final vote and is expected to become final legislation “if not this week, then next week,” according to the bill’s sponsor, Representative John Thune. Thus, the prospects for passage of TCPA legislation currently look quite positive.

As drafted, the legislation will kick off a number of activities by the FCC, and may, as a practical matter, require the agency to take prompt actions on long-awaited rulings on critical statutory definitions. We highlight below some of the most notable revisions in the TRACED Act made since July 2019.

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Court Grants Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment on Vicarious Liability Issues

The Western District of Oklahoma recently granted a plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment against NorthStar Alarm Services, LLC (“NorthStar”) in a certified class action.  The court held, in part, that NorthStar was vicariously liable for telemarketing calls that sales lead generator Yodel Technologies, LLC (“Yodel”) placed on its behalf.  Braver v. NorthStar Alarm Services, LLC, No. 17-cv-0383, 2019 WL 3208651, at *1 (W.D. Okla. July 16, 2019).  The case illustrates the factors that one court found relevant in a particular factual context when assessing vicarious liability issues related to a lead generator’s telemarketing calls. Continue reading   »

A Busy Week for Fax Advertisements in the Supreme Court

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court declined to review a Ninth Circuit ruling regarding what does and doesn’t qualify as an “advertisement.”  Supply Pro Sorbents, LLC v. RingCentral, Inc., No. 18-1381, 2019 WL 1959304 (U.S. June 17, 2019).

Fax cover pages were at issue. The defendant in the case allows customers to send online faxes.  Those faxes include a cover page with one line of text that identifies the company (“Send and receive faxes with RingCentral”) and its website (“www.ringcentral.com”). The filer alleged that those cover sheets were advertisements, and therefore that the defendant had violated the TCPA because it did not have recipients’ consent to send them. Continue reading   »

TCPA Legislation on the Horizon?

While the FCC has a record open to adopt guidance and a new definition for what it considers as an “automatic telephone dialing system” (ATDS) and related TCPA matters, there appears to be growing consensus on “Robocall” legislation in the two houses of Congress that may be moving TCPA legislation closer to reality. On the heels of the Senate passing Senate Bill 151 (entitled “Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act”)Senate Bill 151 (entitled “Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act”), the House of Representatives yesterday introduced a new bipartisan bill – House Bill 3375 – that would bolster the prospects that Congress may be able to pass legislation this year.

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Mike Daly and Mark D. Taticchi quoted in Law360 article “TCPA ‘Merely A Pawn’ In High Court Deference Fight.”

On March 25, 2019, PDR Network and Carlton & Harris Chiropractic appeared in front of the Supreme Court to present oral arguments discussing the issue of whether the Hobbs Act requires federal courts to accept without question the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) numerous orders interpreting the TCPA.

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Defendant Debunks Plaintiffs’ Reliance On FCC Order That Never Became Effective

A pair of new cases, one from Alabama and the other from Florida, has doubled down on the conclusion that plaintiffs cannot rely on the Report and Order adopted by the FCC on August 11, 2016 (the “August 2016 Order”) in asserting their TCPA claims, especially when the subject of the calls is debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States government.

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Conflicting Opinions Regarding the Validity of the FCC’s Pre-2015 ATDS Rulings

As our regular readers know, one of the central issues in the ACA International case was whether the FCC’s vague and expansive definition of an ATDS would withstand judicial scrutiny. The D.C. Circuit found that it did not. As we explained at the time, ACA International explicitly set aside the portion of the FCC’s July 2015 Order that pertained to the definition of an ATDS, and by doing so also implicitly set aside the FCC’s prior statements on this subject in prior orders. Continue reading   »

FCC First Report on Illegal Robocalls

On February 14, 2019, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau released its first report on illegal robocalls (“the Robocall Report”) to address the “onslaught of unwanted calls that has led a lot of consumers to stop answering the phone altogether.” This report is compiled based on data points from more than forty comments submitted by voice service providers, trade associations, analytics companies, and consumers. The Robocall Report provided summary analysis on the following issues:

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