Are Insurance Renewal Notifications Telemarketing? Maybe.

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

FCC’s Loss on Fax Rule Could Curb Explosion of TCPA Suits

TCPA Blog contributor Justin Kay was recently quoted in the Law360 article, “FCC’s Loss on Fax Rule Could Curb Explosion of TCPA Suits.” The D.C. Circuit’s recent decision negating an FCC regulation requiring opt-out notices on solicited faxes is likely to have long-term consequences for TCPA class actions. Continue reading

D.C. Circuit refutes FCC’s Authority to Require Opt-out Notices on Solicited Faxes . . . and Chairman Pai Agrees

In a post immediately following the November 8, 2016 oral argument in Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, No. 14-1234 (D.C. Cir.), we noted that, based on the lines of questioning from the bench, the three judge panel of Judges Brett M. Kavanaugh, Cornelia T.L. Pillard, and A. Raymond Randolph appeared to be leaning toward a 2-1 decision with Judges Kavanaugh and Randolph likely forming the majority that would find that the FCC was not empowered to require opt-out notices on solicited faxes. On March 31, the DC Circuit issued its opinion and confirmed our analysis, finding in a 2-1 opinion authored by Judge Kavanaugh (joined by Judge Randolph) that “the FCC’s 2006 Solicited Fax Rule is . . . .unlawful to the extent that it requires opt-out notices on solicited faxes.” Slip Op. at 4. The Court therefore vacated the 2006 Fax Order and remanded to the FCC for further proceedings. It declined to address the propriety of the waiver program, finding it moot in light of its holding. Slip. Op. at 11 n.2. Continue reading

Plaintiffs Continue to Target Retail Text Programs

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 Seeks New Trial After $20 Million TCPA Jury Verdict

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

Eastern District of Michigan Dismisses Claim Because Fax Was Not An Advertisement

The Eastern District of Michigan recently dismissed a TCPA claim with prejudice after finding that the single fax at issue did not constitute an advertisement. See Matthew N. Fulton, D.D.S., P.C. v. Enclarity, Inc., No. 16-13777, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28439 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 1, 2017). In doing so, it reaffirmed the Sixth Circuit’s position that, in deciding whether a fax is an advertisement, courts should not look beyond the four corners of the document and should ask whether it “‘promote[s] goods or services to be bought or sold’” and “‘ha[s] profit as an aim.’” Id. at *4 (citation omitted). Continue reading

Looking Lonely: Commenters Show Little Love for Serial Plaintiffs’ Petition

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

Second Circuit Affirms Denial of Certification Because Putative Class is Unascertainable, but Holds Receipt of Phone Calls Confers Standing

Last week, the Second Circuit, in Leyse v. Lifetime Entertainment Servs., LLC, affirmed the denial of class certification in a putative TCPA prerecorded message class action for lack of an ascertainable class. (We previously blogged about this district court decision.) Lifetime, concerned that viewership of its hit show “Project Runway” would suffer due to a channel change, hired a third-party vendor, OnCall Interactive, to contact New York City residents with a prerecorded message from the show’s host informing potential viewers of the channel change. Leyse v. Lifetime Entertainment Servs., LLC, No. 13-cv-5794, 2015 WL 5837897, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 22, 2015). OnCall, in turn, purchased a list of phone numbers from an unknown third-party vendor; Lifetime never obtained that list. Id. at *2. Continue reading

FCC Releases Public Notice on Petition to Eliminate Exceptions to Written Consent Requirement

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

Central District of California Dismisses TCPA Claims Due to a Lack of Traceability

One of our recent articles discussed how federal courts have analyzed the “traceability” element of Article III in TCPA cases. Specifically, we noted that two federal courts had cited Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540 (2016) in dismissing claims because the alleged injuries were not “traceable to” (i.e., caused by) the purported violations. See Ewing v. SQM US Inc., No. 16-1609, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143272 (S.D. Cal. Sept. 29, 2016); Romero v. Dep’t Stores Nat’l Bank, No. 15-0193, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 110889 (S.D. Cal. Aug. 5, 2016). In their view the “violation” was not the act of dialing a number, but rather the act of dialing a number with an ATDS. Because the plaintiffs’ alleged injuries would have been the same if the defendants had dialed their numbers manually, the courts found that the plaintiffs lacked Article III standing because their alleged injuries were not traceable to the use of an ATDS. Although the cases involved only one or two calls, the courts did not limit their traceability analyses to that context. Nevertheless it remained unclear whether this rigorous approach to traceability would be applied more broadly in other contexts. Continue reading