After adopting orders reflecting the majority of implementation deadlines set by the TRACED Act and the Supreme Court’s highly anticipated TCPA decision interpreting the statutory definition of automatic telephone dialing system in the first half of 2021, all eyes are on what the FCC has planned. Midsummer seems like a good time for a year-to-date review to track where the FCC has been and where it is headed next in its TCPA oversight and enforcement roles.
STIR/SHAKEN Call Authentication Framework
Last week, the FCC adopted its January 2021 proposal and issued a Report and Order establishing what the FCC describes as “a fair and consistent process” that a voice service provider can use to challenge a decision by the STIR/SHAKEN framework Governance Authority to strip that provider of the “digital token” that authenticates calls on that provider’s Internet-Protocol (IP) networks.
A court in the Southern District of Florida recently held that the plaintiff in a TCPA suit was not the “called party” under the statute because he received the calls in question only because his cousin rerouted them to the plaintiff’s phone. Thompson v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC, No. 19-62220 (S.D. Fla. Apr. 25, 2020).
In Thompson v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC, Plaintiff Andrew Thompson brought a TCPA suit against PRA—a debt collection company—for seventeen calls made to the Plaintiff’s cousin’s VoIP number that were automatically rerouted by the Plaintiff’s cousin to Plaintiff’s phone and answered by Plaintiff.
As predicted, amendments to the TCPA – in the form of the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (the “TRACED Act”) – were signed into law by the President of the United States on December 30, 2019. The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) applauded this milestone on Twitter, commenting: “[T]he TRACED Act was signed into law, giving the FCC and law enforcement greater authority to go after scammers.” As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility: the enactment started the countdown for a long list of actions that the FCC is required to take during 2020 and beyond. This will add to the already active TCPA dockets at the FCC.
We share below the timeline for these actions to help our readers anticipate and prepare for the regulatory activities that will ensue. We summarized the content of these required FCC actions previously at this post.
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.
As we approach the November 2018 midterm elections, we expect that we will once again see (i) an uptick in the volume of political calls; (ii) a reminder from the FCC that the TCPA applies to those calls (emphasizing that such calls are prohibited if made to cell phones without the consent of the called party, and that all prerecorded calls to cell phones or landlines must comply with certain identification and line release requirements); and (iii) a handful of new lawsuits filed against campaigns, candidates, and committees that allegedly failed to heed the FCC’s warning—all topics we have covered here before. Two recent decisions from a federal court in West Virginia pertaining to the 2016 election serve as a reminder that these lawsuits can linger long after the election ends
In TCPA Blog’s latest Law360 column, contributors Eduardo Guzmán, Michael Daly and Anthony Glosson discuss the Fourth Circuit’s opinion in Lynn v. Monarch Recovery Management Inc. They explain that the opinion has analytical gaps, leaves unanswered questions, and does not mean that calls to residential VoIP-based telephony services should necessarily be treated differently than calls to other residential:
In short, unpublished opinion in Lynn v. Monarch Recovery Management Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit stated that the “call-charged provision” of the TCPA applied to debt collection calls made to a residential VoIP-based line. The plaintiffs’ bar responded by suggesting that the TCPA applies differently to so-called “VoIP calls,” and telemarketing vendors responded by marketing services that scrub all numbers assigned to VoIP carriers — a move that, given VoIP’s increasing popularity, could end up eliminating a substantial percentage of residential numbers. However, a more objective analysis of the opinion and the issues suggests that these reactions may be overstated, if not altogether misplaced.
They go on to explain that predictions about the decision’s consequences may be wrong because it: (1) is unpublished and nonprecedential; (2) involved a highly unusual fact pattern; and (3) has serious gaps in its interpretation of the scope and application of the “call-charged provision.
Click here to read the full article
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).