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
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
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 Central District of California recently granted summary judgment to a health insurer after finding that a pre-recorded message delivered to the insured’s cell phone reminding her to review her health plan options for the coming year was not telemarketing. Smith v. Blue Shield of Cal. Life & Health Ins. Co., No. 16cv108 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 13, 2017), ECF No. 73.
In Smith, the plaintiff completed an application for health insurance through California’s Affordable Care Act Healthcare Marketplace, Covered California. As part of that application process, Plaintiff provided her cell phone number as “the best number at which to contact her.” As required by law, the insurance was set to automatically renew for 2016, and in 2015, Blue Shield attempted to contact Smith by sending written materials to her mailing address (as also required by law) to inform her of the changes to her plan and provide her with alternatives. Plaintiff’s materials, however, were returned to Blue Shield as undeliverable. As with other insureds whose materials were returned, Blue Shield followed up with a pre-recorded message stating in relevant part: “This is an important message from Blue Shield of California. It’s time to review your 2016 health plan options and see what’s new. Earlier this month, we mailed you information about your 2016 plan and benefit changes. It compares your current health plan to other options from Blue Shield. You can also find out more online at blueshieldca.com. If you have not received your information packet in the mail, or if you have any questions, please call the number on the back of your member ID card.” Plaintiff received the call on December 3, 2015; on December 6, 2015, she completed an application for a different insurance plan for the 2016 year. Continue reading
On November 15, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau denied a petition by Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) 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.
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. Continue reading
On August 11, 2016, the FCC released a Report and Order implementing Section 301 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (the “Budget Act”), which exempts autodialed and prerecorded calls “made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States” from the TCPA’s prior express consent requirement. The Budget Act provision also authorizes the FCC to adopt rules to “restrict or limit the number and duration” of any wireless calls made to collect debts owed to or guaranteed by the federal government. Continue reading
Over two years ago, we first argued that a pharmacist’s prescription refill reminder calls fell within the emergency purpose exception to the TCPA in Kolinek v. Walgreen Co. (N.D. Ill.). The TCPA, of course, prohibits many types of autodialed or pre-recorded/artificial voice calls to cell phones if made without the prior express consent of the called party, except where the calls are made “for emergency purposes.” 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A). In Kolinek, the court held at the motion to dismiss stage that further factual development was necessary to evaluate whether the emergency purpose exemption precluded plaintiff’s claims because the complaint did not allege sufficient detail regarding the nature of the calls. Although the case settled before the court had the opportunity to rule on the issue on summary judgment, the court acknowledged the viability of the emergency purposes defense as a basis for approving the class action settlement despite objections that the settlement fund was a tiny fraction of potential liabilities. Continue reading
The Sixth Circuit recently affirmed the entry of summary judgment against plaintiffs who had not given their phone numbers to the debt collector that had called them or to the creditor to which they owed money. See Baisden v. Credit Adjustments, Inc., No. 15-3411, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 2465 (6th Cir. Feb. 12, 2016). In doing so, it agreed with the FCC and the Eleventh Circuit that “prior express consent” can be “obtained and conveyed via intermediaries,” in this case the hospital to which the plaintiffs had voluntarily given their numbers.
The plaintiffs were former patients at a hospital (Mount Carmel Hospital) who owed debts that were transferred from an affiliated anesthesiology practice (Consultant Anesthesiologists) to a debt collector (Credit Adjustments, Inc.). Both of the plaintiffs had signed admission forms that permitted the hospital to release their “health information” to third parties for purposes of “billing and payment” or “billing and collecting monies due,” among other things. Id. at *2-6. After the plaintiffs received calls from the debt collector regarding their debts, they filed a putative class action against the debt collector, the anesthesiology practice, and the hospital. Continue reading
In a recent decision, the Ninth Circuit held that the named plaintiff in a putative TCPA class action expressly consented to receive a text message when she provided an airline with her phone number, even though she claimed she only provided her number because she thought it was required to purchase airline tickets and had no intention of consenting to be contacted. Baird v. Sabre, Inc., No. 14-55293, 2016 WL 424778, at *1 (9th Cir. Feb. 3, 2016).
When Shaya Baird booked flights online, she was prompted to provide contact information and was informed that “‘[a]t least one phone number is required.’” Baird v. Sabre, Inc., 995 F. Supp. 2d 1100, 1101 (C.D. Cal. 2014). Three weeks later, Sabre, which was contracted by Hawaiian Airlines to provide traveler notification services, sent Baird a text message asking if she wanted to receive flight notifications. Baird did not respond and Sabre sent no other messages. Baird subsequently filed a putative class action. Continue reading