Category - "Automatic Telephone Dialing System"

Third Circuit Affirms Dismissal of List-Mode TCPA Claims

In an unpublished opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently affirmed the dismissal of a “list-mode” theory of liability that had been advanced by prolific professional plaintiff Andrew Perrong. Perrong v. Montgomery Cnty. Democratic Comm., No. 23-2415, 2024 WL 1651274, 2024 U.S. App. LEXIS 9238 (3d Cir. Apr. 8, 2024) (unpublished).

Defendants (including the local committee of the Democratic Party) allegedly called Perrong, addressing him by name and urging him to vote for Democratic candidates in his county’s general elections. Perrong argued that the defendants had used an ATDS—and by doing so had violated the TCPA—because their equipment had allegedly used a number generator to determine the order in which to call phone numbers from a stored list of previously compiled voters.

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Another Day, Another ATDS Suit Dismissed in E.D. Pa.

Plaintiff Andrew Perrong is no stranger to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and on September 18, 2023, yet another of Perrong’s suits was partially dismissed on ATDS grounds.  Perrong v. Bradford, et al., No. 2:23-cv-00510, 2023 WL 6119281 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 18, 2023).  You can read our prior coverage of Perrong decisions here and here.

In this instance, Perrong filed a TCPA action against Pennsylvania House of Representatives member Matthew Bradford; he later filed an Amended Complaint adding Cleo Communications, LLC, which placed the calls on behalf of Representative Bradford.  Perrong alleged that in 2019 and 2020, he received five phone calls, four of which were not answered or were answered to dead air.  A fifth phone call included a recording of Representative Bradford, inviting Perrong to participate in a virtual information session on opportunities to connect Pennsylvanians to healthcare coverage.  Perrong asserted three TCPA claims against Representative Bradford and Cleo Communications: the placing of a prerecorded message, use of an ATDS, and the placing of a telemarketing call.

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E.D. Pa. Dismisses Serial Plaintiff’s TCPA Case on ATDS Grounds

On July 18, 2023, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissed a TCPA claim filed by serial Plaintiff, Andrew Perrong.  Perrong v. Montgomery Cnty. Democratic Comm., No. 22-4475, 2023 WL 4600423 (E.D. Pa. July 18, 2023). You can read our prior coverage of Perrong decisions here and here.

The present case centers around three phone calls Perrong received from the Montgomery County Democratic Committee and its associates. Perrong claimed that Defendants violated the TCPA by using an ATDS to contact him. The Defendants moved to dismiss the case, arguing that Perrong’s complaint failed to state a claim because the device at issue randomly or sequentially dialed phone numbers from a preexisting list (such as a list of registered voters), rather than randomly producing phone numbers itself, and therefore did not qualify as an automatic telephone dialing system.

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Florida Governor Signs FTSA Amendments Into Law

Yesterday, Florida’s Governor signed HB 761, which makes significant changes to the Florida Telephone Solicitation Act (“FTSA,” Fla. Stat. § 501.059).

HB 761 states that these amendments will not only take effect immediately, but also apply retroactively to any pending FTSA action styled as a class action but was not certified as such before the Governor signed the law. But there are already signs that the law’s retroactivity provision will face challenges, including one court’s recent observation that the constitutionality of that particular provision is unclear. See Murray v. Riders Share, Inc., No. 6:22-cv-2329-PGB-DCI, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83388, at *3 n.2 (M.D. Fla. May 12, 2023) (“Retroactive application of a civil statute ordinarily transgresses constitutional limitations on legislative power ‘if the statute impairs vested rights, creates new obligations, or imposes new penalties.’”).

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Florida Senate Approves House Amendments to mini-TCPA

The Florida Senate passed HB 761 late yesterday by a 29-10 vote, less than a week after the bill sailed through the Florida House by a 99-14 vote. As we previously reported, passage of this bill paves the way for significant changes to the Florida Telephone Solicitation Act (“FTSA,” Fla. Stat. § 501.059). The bill must now be presented to the Florida Governor, who will have up to 15 days following presentment to sign or veto the bill. See Fla. Const., Art. III, § 8(a).

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FTSA Does Not Apply to Calls Selling Services to Businesses

The Middle District of Florida partially rejected a plaintiff’s motion for entry of final default judgment in Brown v. Care Front Funding, No. 8:22-cv-02408-VMC-JSS, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60879 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 6, 2023), report and recommendation adopted, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 72933 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 26, 2023).

The plaintiff alleged that, despite being placed on the National Do-Not-Call Registry, she received three unsolicited calls from the defendant for the purpose of persuading her to obtain a business loan. After the defendant failed to respond to her complaint, the plaintiff moved for entry of default and then entry of default judgment. Magistrate Sneed found that the plaintiff had failed to allege that the calls were made for the solicitation of a sale of or extension of credit for any “consumer goods or services” for purposes of finding liability under the FTSA. The statute defines “consumer goods or services” as “real property or tangible or intangible personal property that is normally used for personal, family or household purposes . . . and any services related to such property.” Fla. Stat. § 501.059(1)(c). Magistrate Sneed noted that courts have interpreted similar statutes that provide for “consumer” protections related to goods and services that are primarily for personal, family, or household purposes to exclude goods and services in the business context.

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Legislature Poised to Overhaul Florida’s mini-TCPA

The Florida Legislature is moving quickly to pass significant remedial amendments to the Florida Telephone Solicitation Act (“FTSA,” Fla. Stat. § 501.059) before the end of the legislative session this Friday.  Should the proposed amendments succeed, they would restrict the scope and substance of the statute in several important ways.

First, the amendments would narrow the categories of equipment that are covered by the statute.  Whereas the current autodialing restrictions apply to “automated system[s] for the selection or dialing of telephone numbers,” the amended autodialing restrictions would apply only to “automated system[s] for the selection and dialing of telephone numbers” (emphasis added). Note, however, that even the amended version would restrict “the playing of a recorded message when a connection is completed to a number called, or the transmission of a prerecorded voicemail.”

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Recent Ninth Circuit Opinions Address Standing and the Meaning of ‘Automatic Telephone Dialing System’

The Ninth Circuit recently issued two noteworthy TCPA decisions.  Most recently, in Borden v. eFinancial, LLC, No. 21-35746, 2022 WL 16955661 (9th Cir. Nov. 16, 2022), the Court addressed one of the most hot-button issues in this space:  the definition of “automatic telephone dialing system” (“ATDS”).  Shortly before that, in Chennette v. Porch.com, Inc., 50 F.4th 1217 (9th Cir. 2022), the Ninth Circuit discussed both Article III and statutory standing.

Borden and the ATDS Definition

In a unanimous opinion, the Ninth Circuit recently affirmed the dismissal of a text message TCPA suit based on its holding that to qualify as an ATDS, dialing equipment “must generate and dial random or sequential telephone numbers,” not just any numbers.  See Borden, 2022 WL 16955661, at *1.

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District of Connecticut Rejects ATDS Allegations in Complaint Against Subway

The District of Connecticut recently dismissed a TCPA action against the Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust (“Subway”) because plaintiff failed to allege that Subway used an ATDS to send text messages to her cell phone.  Soliman v. Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust Ltd., No. 3:19-cv-592, 2022 WL 2802347 (D. Conn. July 18, 2022).  The court held that “[t]he TCPA is clear:  a device is not an automatic telephone dialing system merely because it generates random or sequential index numbers that are used in turn to select which numbers to call from a stored list.”  Id. at *3 (emphasis in original).  The ruling serves as yet another example of a dialing technology that does not meet the definition of an ATDS following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid, 141 S. Ct. 1163, 1171 (2021).

In Soliman, plaintiff alleged that she received a text message from Subway offering her a free bag of potato chips.  Id. at *1.  Plaintiff further alleged that she replied “STOP” to unsubscribe from the text messages but claimed that Subway texted her again a few days later.  Id. at *1.  Plaintiff subsequently filed a two-count class action lawsuit against Subway for negligently and intentionally violating the TCPA.  Id.  Subway filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.  Id.

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Proposed Federal TCPA Legislation Offers a New and Broad ATDS Definition

On July 12, 2022, Representatives Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., and Katie Porter, D-Calif. introduced H.R. 8334 in the U.S. House of Representatives, which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce. The bill would amend the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (the “TCPA”), 47 U.S.C. § 227, to, among other things, “prohibit the use of automated telephone equipment to send unsolicited text messages.”

The TCPA presently defines “automatic telephone dialing system” (or “ATDS”) as equipment that has the capacity “to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator . . . to dial such numbers.”  The law generally prohibits any person from making nonconsensual telemarketing or other types of telephone calls to a cell phone number using an ATDS.

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