The Tide Is Turning: Ajit Pai Chosen To Head FCC

On July 10, 2015, a sharply divided FCC issued a Declaratory Ruling and Order (the “July 2015 Order”) that missed the mark. The July 2015 Order purported to expand the scope of the TCPA through its unsupported redefinition of an “automatic telephone dialing system,” create an untenable one call “safe harbor” for reassigned number liability, and permit parties to revoke consent through any “reasonable” means. The July 2015 Order is presently on appeal in the D.C. Circuit, and there is hope that the Court, which heard argument on October 19, 2016, will undo its pronouncements, which have had broad implications for businesses that place calls and send text messages to consumers for telemarketing or informational purposes. These companies have faced potentially crushing liability through a huge wave of TCPA actions (both proposed class actions and individual claims) as well as pre-suit demands, many of which have been initiated by opportunistic plaintiffs’ lawyers and serial plaintiffs. Continue reading

Central District of California Holds That Insurance Renewal Notifications Are Not Telemarketing Under the TCPA

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

There’s a Ketch: Court Reverses Entry of Summary Judgment in Favor of Plaintiffs with Muddled Timeline

A recent appellate opinion out of Oklahoma state court provides an important reminder that putative classes should not include people who did not receive the communication at issue. See Ketch v. Royal Windows, 113986 (Ct. Civ. App. Okla., Nov. 08, 2016).

In Ketch, the plaintiff filed suit after receiving an allegedly unsolicited fax advertisement from the defendant, from which it had previously requested a catalog. The defendant admitted that the fax advertisement did not have any opt-out language and evidently did not seek a retroactive waiver from the FCC. The plaintiff then moved for summary judgment on behalf of itself and a previously certified class. The trial court granted that motion, finding that Royal was liable to the tune of $290,000.00, i.e., $500 for each fax that had been transmitted. Continue reading

Seventh Circuit Rejects Political Speech Challenge to Indiana’s Anti-Robocall Statute

We’ve previously discussed First Amendment challenges to the TCPA and state law counterparts in the context of political speech here, here, and here. Recently, the Seventh Circuit rejected a nonprofit group’s argument that Indiana’s anti-robocall statute violated the First Amendment because it did not exempt robocalls involving political speech. Patriotic Veterans, Inc. v. Zoller, No. 16-2059, 2017 U.S.App. LEXIS 47 (Jan. 3, 2017). Continue reading

Courts Continue to Grapple with Article III Jurisdictional Questions in the Wake of Campbell-Ewald v. Gomez

Article III of the U.S. Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to “cases” and “controversies.” U.S. Const., Art. III, § 2. Accordingly, as the Supreme Court recently clarified, “[i]f an intervening circumstance deprives the plaintiff of a personal stake in the outcome of the lawsuit, at any point during litigation, the action can no longer proceed and must be dismissed as moot.” Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, 136 S. Ct. 663, 669 (2016). In the long-awaited decision, the Campbell-Ewald majority held that an unaccepted offer of complete relief under Rule 68, alone, does not moot a claim and thus does not deprive a court of Article III jurisdiction over the action. However, in so ruling, the majority emphasized that the fact that the offer was unaccepted was critical to its decision, thus leaving unanswered a host of scenarios in which a defendant makes an actual full payment or an unconditional tender to the plaintiff, and the court enters judgment for the plaintiff in that amount. Continue reading

FCC Holds Webinar On “How to Deal with Robocalls”

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

FTC Issues Annual National DNC Registry Data Book

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.

Technology for Effective TCPA Defense: What You Need to Know

TCPA Blog contributor Michael Stortz will co-present a LiveVox webinar on “Technology for Effective TCPA Defense: What You Need to Know” on Wednesday, November 30, 2016. This webinar will provide an in-depth look at how to effectively utilize technology as part of a multifaceted TCPA defense strategy. Panelists will discuss best practices for the initial technology assessment; managing the ongoing assessment of technology; and leveraging technology in defending a TCPA claim. The webinar will also examine the technology behind TCPA suits, including how to assess what is—and is not—an automatic telephone dialing system, and how courts are responding to the use of technology.

Registration for the webinar can be found at the LiveVox website.

Court Finds Plaintiff-Initiated Text Communication Does Not Constitute Express Written Consent

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

FCC Denies Petition by Mortgage Bankers Association to Exempt Certain Mortgage Servicing Calls from Prior Express Consent Requirement

On November 15, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau denied a petition by Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA)[1] 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.[2]

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.[3] Continue reading