On Tuesday, June 13, 2017, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice held a hearing on “Lawsuit Abuse and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.”
Based on the testimony, statements, and questions at the hearing, it seems that the Subcommittee is in the very early stages of considering possible reforms to the TCPA. Although there is no draft legislation yet, nor even an agreement in principle of what changes to pursue, several members of the Subcommittee—including Subcommittee chairman Steve King and Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte—seem committed to find a way to rein in the statute’s disproportionately high social costs while maintaining its core purpose of protecting consumer privacy. Indeed, both Representatives expressed significant concern regarding the concrete harms that the current wave of TCPA litigation is having—injuring businesses trying in good faith to comply with the law; depriving consumers of desired (and, in some cases, sorely needed) communications; and enriching a small cohort in the legal profession who are pursuing their personal profit rather than the welfare of the American consumer. Continue reading
For years, courts, litigants, and commentators have grappled with the TCPA’s definition of “automatic telephone dialing system” (“ATDS”). As a result of the FCC’s July 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order, the debate has focused on the question of capacity, i.e., whether a device must have the present capacity to “(a) store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and (b) to dial such numbers” or—as the FCC found—if the potential capacity is sufficient. Continue reading
We’ve previously reported on the D.C. Circuit’s March 31 decision, which held that “the FCC’s 2006 Solicited Fax Rule is . . . unlawful to the extent that it requires opt-out notices on solicited faxes.” Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, No. 14-1234, Slip. Op. at 4 (D.C. Cir. 2017). And as we recently discussed, the plaintiff intervenors in that case have sought a rehearing en banc. Given the significance of the D.C. Circuit’s decision in TCPA class actions, it would not be a surprise if the en banc petition is just the beginning of the plaintiffs’ bar’s efforts to attack the D.C. Circuit’s decision. While the D.C. Circuit’s ruling is welcome news to defendants in TCPA actions, the Eastern District of Missouri recently dealt another blow to the plaintiffs’ bar. In that regard, shortly before the D.C. Circuit’s ruling, a district court held that an allegedly deficient opt-out notice in a fax the plaintiff invited did not give rise to a concrete injury under Spokeo, and dismissed the case for lack of Article III standing. St. Louis Heart Ctr., Inc. v. Nomax, Inc., No. 4:15-CV-517 RLW, 2017 U,S., Dist, LEXIS 39411 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 20, 2017). Continue reading
As discussed here, the Central District of California recently granted summary judgment in favor of an insurance company after finding that a prerecorded call to the insured’s mobile phone, which reminded her to review her health plan options for the following year, was not telemarketing and therefore did not require “prior express written consent.” See Smith v. Blue Shield of Cal. Life & Health Ins. Co., No. SACV 16-00108-CJC-KES (C.D. Cal. Jan. 13, 2017).
But just a few weeks ago, a different judge in the Central District reached the opposite conclusion in a similar case, and denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss. See Flores v. Access Ins. Co., No. 2:15-cv-02883-CAS-AGR (C.D. Cal. Mar. 13, 2017) (available here). These two decisions illustrate how courts continue to grapple with the distinction between “telemarketing” and “informational” calls. Continue reading
In TCPA Blog’s latest column for Law360, Mike Daly and Meredith Slawe discuss the “unrelenting” pace of TCPA litigation in 2017, particularly claims targeting retail text message programs. They discuss the FCC’s rulings on number of issues and explore the different approaches of the previous administration and the current administration under Chairman Ajit Pai. They also recount what Chairman Pai has described as the “ridiculous lengths” to which some plaintiffs have gone to exploit the TCPA:
That was, if anything, an understatement. Some plaintiffs have taken to buying phones and requesting area codes for regions where debt collection calls are common, hiring staff to log calls in order to file hundreds of lawsuits, porting a repeating digit phone number from a landline to a cellphone, asking employees to text ‘JOIN’ to unknown company numbers, and even teaching classes on how to sue telemarketers. Others have sent demand letters after purporting to revoke their consent—often moments after enrolling in a text program—by using anything other than the obvious word “stop.” These plaintiffs will receive text advising them that they can opt out by texting “stop” but will try to trap businesses by responding with unorthodox synonyms such as “cease,” “desist,” “refrain,” or “halt,” which will not trigger many opt-out mechanisms. Responses such as these are not even believable, let alone “reasonable.” And the certification of a class of such people would be inappropriate for a whole host of reasons. But plaintiffs know that defending even these claims would not be without cost or inconvenience, and businesses continue to receive demand letters every day.
They conclude that, “[i]n the absence of meaningful congressional or regulatory reform and as we await a ruling from the D.C. Circuit on the proper interpretation of the statute, retailers should continue to mitigate their TCPA risk by observing best practices and engaging in active vendor management.”
Click here to read the full article.
Dish Network LLC (“Dish”) recently filed a motion for a new trial after a jury found Dish liable for more than 51,000 calls to 18,000 class members, resulting in an award of $20.5 million.
In Krakauer v. Dish Network LLC, No. 14-0333 (M.D.N.C.), the plaintiff alleged that he had received telemarketing sales calls from an authorized dealer of Dish despite registering his number on the National Do Not Call Registry. He further alleged that these calls continued even after his telephone number was placed on both Dish’s and its authorized dealer’s internal Do Not Call Lists. Before trial, the court certified two classes: the first consisting of persons who received telemarketing calls despite having their telephone numbers on the National Do No Call Registry, and the second consisting of persons who received telemarketing calls despite having their telephone numbers on the internal Do Not Call Lists of Dish or its authorized dealer. Continue reading
On remand from the Third Circuit, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently reaffirmed its entry of summary judgment in favor of Yahoo!, holding once again that the company’s email-to-text alert system did not qualify as an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”). Specifically, the court found that “present capacity” was the appropriate standard and declined to apply the “potential capacity” test that a narrow majority of the FCC announced in its July 2015 Declaratory Ruling & Order (“2015 Ruling”). See Dominguez v. Yahoo!, Inc., No. 13-1887, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11346, at *7 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 27, 2017); Rules & Regulations Implementing Tel. Consumer Protection Act of 1991, 30 FCC Rcd. 7961 (2015). Continue reading
Yesterday, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau held an informational webinar titled “How to Deal with Robocalls.” Kristi Thornton (Associate Division Chief, Consumer Policy Division) began by providing background on the TCPA and robocalls, as well as recent FCC actions pertaining to federal debt collection calls and the emergency purposes exception as it relates to calls placed by schools and utility companies. We previously reported on these actions here and here. Continue reading
On December 9th, the Federal Trade Commission released its annual National Do Not Call Registry Data Book for Fiscal Year 2016, which spans from October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016. The Data Book contains statistical information regarding the number of telephone numbers registered on the Do Not Call Registry, the number of entities that access phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry, and the number of complaints submitted to the FTC about companies allegedly violating the do-not-call rules. Statistics regarding numbers registered and complaints submitted are also categorized by state and area code in the appendix. Some highlights from the Data Book include:
- There were 226,001,288 telephone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry compared to 222,841,484 telephone numbers the year before;
- There were 5,340,234 consumer complaints compared to 3,578,711 consumer complaints the year before; and
- There were 2,353 entities who paid fees to access the Do Not Call Registry, 17,634 entities who accessed five or fewer area codes from the Do Not Call Registry at no charge, and 503 exempt entities that engaged in calls that either did not involve the sale of goods or services or were directed to persons whom they have an established business relationship with or whom they have obtained express written agreement to call.
This is the eighth year that the FTC has released a National Do Not Call Registry Data Book.
The Eastern District of California recently denied a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, despite the plaintiff having voluntarily initiated the text exchange at issue and having ignored immediately received opt-out notices. Larson v. Harman Mgmt. Corp., No. 16-0219, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 149267 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 27, 2016). Continue reading