New Jersey Federal Court Rejects FCC’s Dish Network Ruling in Blast Fax Case, Relies on FCC’s Letter Brief in Sarris

As we previously reported, on July 17, 2014, the FCC filed a letter brief in Palm Beach Golf Center-Boca, Inc. v. Sarris, No. 13-14013 (11th Cir.) (“Sarris”), in which it took the position that entities can be held directly liable under the TCPA whenever their products or services are advertised in an unsolicited fax—even if they did not actually send the fax, and even if they did not know the fax was going to be sent. The FCC’s letter brief stood in marked contrast to its decision last year in In re Joint Petition Filed by Dish Network, LLC, 28 F.C.C. Rcd. 6574 (2013) (“Dish Network”), where the FCC had limited direct liability to only “telemarketers” that “initiate” calls, and otherwise applied agency principles to determine whether “sellers” might be vicariously liable for calls made on their behalf. As readers may recall, the FCC’s letter brief does not articulate a policy reason why a “seller” in the voice call context should receive more protection than an entity whose goods and services are promoted through a fax advertisement. But whatever the merits of the letter brief, it has yet to be cited by the Eleventh Circuit (which has heard argument but not yet issued an opinion) or, at least for the past few months, any other court.

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Ninth Circuit Addresses TCPA Text Message Claims

In Gomez v. Campbell-Ewald Co., No. 13-55486, 2014 WL 4654478 (9th Cir. Sept. 19, 2014), a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals addressed several recurring issues in TCPA litigation, including: the efficacy of Rule 68 offers to moot putative class actions; potential First Amendment defenses; and vicarious liability.

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FCC Letter Brief Suggests That Faxes and Phone Calls are Different for Purposes of Direct Liability Under the TCPA

At the invitation of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the FCC recently filed a letter brief in Palm Beach Golf Center-Boca, Inc. v. Sarris, No. 13-14013 (11th Cir.). The letter brief took the position that defendants can be held directly liable any time their products or services are advertised via a fax that violates the TCPA—even if they did not send the fax or even know that it was going to be sent.

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Ninth Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment, Taco Bell Not Vicariously Liable for Third-Party Text Message

In an unpublished opinion, the Ninth Circuit recently affirmed a district court’s ruling that Taco Bell was not vicariously liable for text messages sent by a third party advertising a Taco Bell product. See Thomas v. Taco Bell Corp., No. 12-56458, 2014 WL 2959160 (9th Cir. July 2, 2014). The ruling is one of the first appellate decisions to consider vicarious liability for section 227(b) violations in the wake of an FCC declaratory ruling that had endorsed and indeed provided guidelines on that topic. See In re DISH Network, LLC, 28 F.C.C. Rcd. 6574 (2013). Unfortunately for companies grappling with these issues, the unpublished Ninth Circuit decision does not provide any additional clarity.

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Court Finds That Vendor of VoIP Service That Circumvents Caller Identification is Not Secondarily Liable for Caller’s TCPA Violations

A federal court recently held that a vendor of a VoIP service that allows callers to circumvent caller identification is not secondarily liable for the alleged TCPA violations of the caller that uses that service. See Clark v. Avatar Techs. PHL, Inc., No. 13-2777 (S.D. Tex. Jan. 28, 2014).

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D.C. Circuit Dish Network Decision Fails to Clear the Muddied TCPA Waters of a Seller’s Vicarious Liability

On January 22, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed Dish Network LLC’s petition for review of a 2013 Declaratory Ruling (“Declaratory Ruling”)[1] by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which clarified whether a seller may be held vicariously liable under federal common law principles of agency for violations of Sections 227(b) or 227(c) of the TCPA.

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Buyer Beware: When the Financially Challenged Marketing Partner is a Co-Defendant in TCPA Litigation

A recently proposed class action settlement agreement illustrates the potential litigation perils when any established business relies on outsourced, undercapitalized marketing agents who lack either the assets or insurance to adequately defend TCPA class action litigation.  Indeed, the only proposed recovery for the class is an agreement to provide testimony and documentary evidence of the co-defendant’s actual knowledge of the conduct that violated the TCPA, and its alleged authorization of the subject unlawful text messaging.

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