House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Modernizing the TCPA

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U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, convened a hearing yesterday titled “Modernizing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.” Chairman Walden opened the hearing with the following observations:

We all share the goal of preventing harmful phone calls, but it is increasingly clear that the law is outdated and in many cases, counterproductive. The attempts to strengthen the TCPA rules have actually resulted in a decline in legitimate, informational calls that consumers want and need.

The four witnesses at the one and a half hour hearing were Michelle Turano from WellCare Health Plans, Inc., Shaun W. Mock from Snapping Shoals Electric Membership Corporation, Spencer W. Waller from Loyola University Chicago, and Richard D. Shockey from Shockey Consulting.

Ms. Turano testified that litigation risk has forced her Medicare and Medicaid managed health care plan organization to cease sending health-related reminders to patients on their cellular phones. Mr. Mock testified that a class action lawsuit regarding calls placed to reassigned numbers forced his non-profit electric co-op to cease automated low-balance reminder calls to customers despite many customers relying on these calls. Mr. Waller testified on increasing enforcement. Mr. Shockey emphasized the importance of involving the engineering community in these discussions due to the technical complexities with robocalls and Caller ID.

For those who were unable to attend the hearing, an archived webcast of the hearing, copies of the witnesses’ written statements, and copies of the opening statements are available here.

House Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on Modernizing the TCPA

Today at 11:00 a.m., the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will be holding a hearing entitled “Modernizing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.”  The purpose of the hearing is for the Subcommittee to “consider the challenges faced by consumers and companies in a world where technology and consumer behavior may have outpaced the language of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.” Continue reading

3 Factors to Weigh in Deciding To Fight Or Fold TCPA Suits

TCPA Blog’s Michael Daly and Meredith Slawe were recently quoted in the Law360 article, “3 Factors to Weigh in Deciding to Fight or Fold TCPA Suits.” They explained that “[t]he best approach to defending TCPA cases is to master the facts of each case as early as possible and map out multiple paths to victory. Oftentimes, the smallest details can mean the difference between whether or not a call qualifies as ‘telemarketing’ or a consumer provided ‘consent’ or equipment qualifies as an ‘automatic telephone dialing system.’” The remainder of the article examines other factors from both plaintiffs’ and defendants’ perspectives.

Read “3 Factors to Weigh in Deciding to Fight or Fold TCPA Suits.”

Can 1 Call Or Text Cause Injury Under TCPA?

In TCPA Blog’s latest Law360 column, Mike Daly, Justin Kay, and Victoria Andrews examine the differences in courts’ decisions regarding whether the receipt of a single call or text can be considered concrete harm for the purposes of constitutional standing in TCPA actions. The article first discusses state law claims that are routinely dismissed for lack of sufficient injury because the plaintiff alleged receipt of only one fax or text.  It then reviews recent TCPA claims that have been dismissed based upon similar reasoning, and compares them against those that have found that any alleged violation of the statute establishes sufficient injury to confer constitutional standing.  In doing so, the article addresses why the second line of cases employs faulty reasoning and fails to adhere to Congress’ intent and goals in enacting the TCPA: Continue reading

The Sun is Setting on the Caribbean Cruise Line TCPA Class Action

A much-anticipated TCPA class action trial was set to begin next week in Birchmeier et al. v. Caribbean Cruise Line Inc., et al., in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. According to published reports, however, a class-wide settlement was reached yesterday in this protracted litigation with a history of controversial rulings by the District Court.

Under the terms of the agreement, defendants will pay in the range of $56-$76 million, to settle the claims of class including approximately one million people who received robocalls from defendants in 2011-2012. Class members will reportedly receive $500 for each call received, with the total amount paid to be determined based on how many claims are made.

The case has a long history, including controversial decisions by the District Court to certify the class in 2014, and a decision earlier this year to maintain certification despite the United States Supreme Court’s affirmation in Spokeo v. Robins that a mere statutory violation does not support Article III jurisdiction. The upcoming trial, which had been scheduled to begin on September 12, 2016, appeared to mark one of the few instances in which a TCPA class action would be resolved through trial and potential appeal.

While specific details are yet to arrive, this settlement illustrates the very real risks of TCPA class action litigation given the current uncertainty of the law. While the outcome at settlement is perhaps unique to this litigation, in part due to the District Court’s decisions to this point, further clarity on these key issues arising under the statute remains much needed.

Time For A Timeout In TCPA Litigation

In TCPA Blog’s latest Law360 column, Mike Daly, Meredith Slawe, and Dan Brewer discuss why courts should temporarily stay TCPA cases pending the regulatory appeal of the FCC’s July 10, 2015 Order, which is set for oral argument before the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on October 19, 2016. The article addresses the flaw in plaintiffs’ argument that they are prejudiced while awaiting a decision: Continue reading

Robocall Blocking “Strike Force” Initiated at FCC Chairman’s Request

For some time the FCC’s Chairman, Tom Wheeler, has been calling on wireless and wireline carriers alike to take more aggressive steps to assist consumers in preventing unwelcome or unsolicited calls and spam messages. The FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling, for example, contained a discussion focused on resolving the question of whether carriers had a legal obligation to transmit all calls without blocking. In the Matter of Rules & Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, 30 FCC Rcd 7961, ¶¶ 152-63 (July 10, 2015). The Declaratory Ruling affirmed that nothing in the Communications Act or FCC rules or orders prohibits carriers from offering or implementing call blocking technologies for those customers who choose to use them. Id. Continue reading

FCC Issues Declaratory Ruling Confirming an Exemption from Certain of the TCPA’s Restrictions for the Federal Government and its Contractors When Acting within Scope of an Agency Relationship

The FCC recently issued a declaratory ruling addressing petitions that had been filed by Broadnet Teleservices LLC (“Broadnet”), National Employment Network Association (“NENA”), and RTI International (“RTI”), each of which sought guidance or clarification on the extent of the TCPA’s governmental exception when a contractor is placing calls or texts pursuant to its work on behalf of the government. Each of the petitioners provide, or have members that provide, calling services on behalf of federal government entities; Broadnet offers teletown hall calling services for state and local governments as well and RTI performs social science survey work for entities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). NENA represents providers of employment services to beneficiaries of Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. These providers are required to contact program-eligible beneficiaries to provide information about potential programs and services.
Continue reading

The Rise Of The Professional TCPA Plaintiff

Filing TCPA actions has become a form of sport for certain plaintiffs. In TCPA Blog’s latest Law360 column, Seamus Duffy, Mike McTigue, Mike Daly, Meredith Slawe and Dan Brewer address the manufacturing of TCPA claims, which came to a head in a recent case involving an unabashed professional plaintiff who purchased at least 35 cellphones and numbers with the sole purpose of receiving calls to recycled numbers and then filing suit and cashing in. The article notes the growing use (and abuse) of the TCPA by such plaintiffs:
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Senate Commerce Committee Holds Hearing On TCPA’s Effects On Consumers And Businesses

U.S. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, convened a full committee hearing yesterday titled “The Telephone Consumer Protection Act at 25: Effects on Consumers and Business.”  Witnesses at the two-hour hearing included the Attorney General of Indiana and representatives of the U.S. Chamber Institute of Legal Reform, the National Consumer Law Center, and the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management.  Chairman Thune opened the hearing with the following observations: Continue reading