Phone and gavelIf you have seen members of the TCPA plaintiffs’ bar sweating a bit more than usual lately, it’s not just the summer heat—they’re probably concerned about the steady stream of positive cases for the defense bar over the past month. Since our last update, a considerable number of new TCPA decisions have come out, including several circuit level decisions. And while not every case discussed in this edition of the TCPA Case Law Review went the way of the defendants, a clear tendency this summer is for courts to rule against TCPA class action plaintiffs. Let’s hope this is one trend that continues after Labor Day.
Continue Reading TCPA Case Law Review (Vol. 4)

On August 9, 2018, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama agreed with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Reyes v. Lincoln Auto. Fin. Servs., 861 F.3d (2d Cir. 2017), which held that contractual consent to be contacted by an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) could not (and cannot) be unilaterally revoked because the consent formed part of a bargained-for exchange in the contract.  The Second Circuit’s ruling was favorable for companies seeking clarification on consent revocation issues that exist with respect to claims brought under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”).
Continue Reading The “DISH” on Unilateral Revocation: Another U.S. District Court Holds No Unilateral Revocation of Consent under the TCPA

Overview of the Ruling

On March 16, 2018, just before tip-off in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the D.C. Circuit provided the TCPA defense bar with a new playbook of sorts, in the form of a decision that will surely change the game for TCPA litigation. The case, of course, is ACA International v. FCC, and the ruling came down nearly 18 months after oral arguments. ACA Int’l et al. v. FCC, No. 15-1211, Doc. No. 1722606 (D.C. Cir. Mar. 16, 2018). It appears to be worth the wait as the D.C. Circuit slam dunked the former definition of automated telephone dialing equipment (“ATDS”) and the “one-call safe harbor” rule for reassigned numbers.Continue Reading ACA v. FCC Close to a Slam Dunk for TCPA Defendants

Every month or so, we review all Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, et seq. (“TCPA”), decisions across the country to stay abreast of  developments as we defend these cases throughout the United States.  In this inaugural issue of the TCPA Case Law Update by Vedder Price, we offer summaries of some of the defense-friendly decisions entered in the past month and a half.  The decisions are listed by issue category in alphabetical order.  We plan to post similar summaries on a roughly monthly basis going forward.  We hope you find this information useful as you ward off these pesky but nevertheless risky claims.
Continue Reading TCPA Case Law Update

If you follow developments in TCPA case law, you’ve probably heard by now that the DC Circuit Court of Appeals last week overturned the 2015 FCC Order that had required TCPA opt-out notices on both solicited and unsolicited faxes. The court held that the FCC’s rule was “unlawful to the extent that it requires opt-out notices on solicited faxes.” See Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, et al., Case No. 14-1234 (D.C. Cir.). In fact, the DC Circuit—despite years of FCC guidance, 13 consolidated appeals and more than two dozen lawyers participating in the briefing—seemed to view this as a relatively simple issue of statutory construction: “The text of the Act provides a clear answer to the question presented in this case. . . . Congress drew a line in the text of the statute between unsolicited fax advertisements and solicited fax advertisements. Unsolicited fax advertisements must include an opt-out notice. But the Act does not require (or give the FCC authority to require) opt-out notices on solicited fax advertisements. It is the Judiciary’s job to respect the line drawn by Congress, not to redraw it as we might think best.”
Continue Reading DC Circuit Opts Out of Flawed FCC Ruling

Yet another court has found that consent in a TCPA case is an inherently individualized issue that precludes class certification. In Newhart v. Quicken Loans, Inc., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 168721 (S.D. Fla. Oct. 13, 2016), the plaintiff moved to certify a class of individuals who had received calls from defendant on their cellular telephones, allegedly in violation of the TCPA. The court denied class certification, finding that “resolving the consent issue will depend upon multiple layers of individualized evidence about each call and the circumstances that preceded it. Therefore, predominance is lacking.” Id. at *6. Importantly, the court did not need to decide “whether any class member actually consented.” Id.

The court held that the consent analysis had two parts. First, the trier of fact must determine “whether each challenged call was made for a telemarketing purpose.” Id. If so, prior express written consent would be required. If not, the consent need not be in writing. Id. Second, the trier of fact must determine whether the defendant “possessed the requisite consent before making each call.” Id. at *6–7.  The court’s decision that an individualized analysis was necessary turned largely on its finding that the trier of fact must look at each individual call, not the “purpose of the overall campaign. Id. at *7–8. Analogizing to the TCPA fax provision, the court noted that, “[t]he FCC has expressly recognized, in the unsolicited fax context, that even when some aspect of a series of communications might meet the telemarketing rule, others might not, and so it is necessary to examine the communications separately.” Id. at *8. Because evidence showed that the challenged calls in the case were not uniform in purpose, the telemarketing issue could not be resolved on a class-wide basis. Id. at *10. 
Continue Reading TCPA Class Certification Denials Continue to Pile Up, This Time in Florida

Try as they might, Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) plaintiffs’ lawyers continue to face judicial resistance to deeming all phones autodialers (automatic telephone dialing systems or ATDS’s). In the latest example, the U.S. Southern District of California granted summary judgment to the defendant, finding the plaintiff’s “evidence” of autodialer use too speculative and too disconnected to the specific calls at issue. See Chyba v. Bayview Loan Serv., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133849 (S.D. Cal. Sept. 27, 2016). As the court reasoned, “[N]o matter the name given to the equipment, the ‘basic function’ of an autodialer is ‘the capacity to dial numbers without human intervention.’” Id. at *5 (quoting In re Rules and Regulations Implementing the Tel. Consumer Prot Act of 1991, 18 FCC Rcd. 14014, 14092 (July 3, 2003)).
Continue Reading Another Desperate TCPA ATDS Claim Bites the Dust

Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA, 42 U.S.C. § 227) claims often are a waste of time and money. The plaintiffs frequently are serial (some having filed dozens of claims) and usually want to receive the alleged spam so they can sue and cash in. The harm is slim to non-existent, and the economic burden of the litigation on defendants (and the courts) is staggering. In a ruling on August 8, U.S. Northern District of Illinois Judge St. Eve ruled that she wouldn’t “stand” for this state of affairs any longer (or at least not with respect to the facts before her). She found that because the plaintiff was not in the “zone of interests” intended to be protected by the TCPA, the plaintiff lacked statutory standing. See Tel. Sci. Corp. v. Asset Recovery Solutions, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104234, at *50 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 8, 2016).

As a result of selling a tool for screening alleged robocalls, plaintiff Telephone Science Corporation (TSC) claimed it had received a lot of calls in violation of the TCPA. Id. at *4. Judge St. Eve ruled that because the whole purpose of TSC’s business was to identify/screen robocalls, it couldn’t sue under the TCPA based on receipt of those robocalls. Id. at *48–50. In other words, TSC’s claims did not implicate the interests against privacy intrusion and nuisance underpinning the TCPA.
Continue Reading Judges Can’t Stand TCPA Claims

Over the past three months in the Media & Privacy Risk Report, we’ve analyzed the various parts of the July 10, 2015 FCC TCPA Order (the Order). See 80 Federal Register 61129. The Order’s implications for corporate America are in many respects staggering.

Although the petitioners to the FCC had hoped for clarity, reason and decreased litigation expense as a result of the Order, they instead face more uncertainty, numerous administrative leaps of logic, and exponentially increasing litigation expense because of the blood the TCPA plaintiffs’ bar now sees in the water. At this point, their having petitioned the FCC on the various points covered by the Order appears to have been a very perilous maneuver indeed. But only time will tell whether following administrative protocol before the FCC to ripen these issues for determination by a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will pay off in the long run.
Continue Reading What Do Recent TCPA Incantations by FCC Mean for You? (FCC TCPA Order Report Parts 10 & 11 of 11—the Dissents and the Big Picture)

In the July 10, 2015 FCC Order regarding the TCPA (the “Order”), the FCC didn’t just sharpen the litigation “sword” that consumers can use against telemarketers—it also gave them a shield. The FCC affirmed that “nothing in the Communications Act or our rules or orders prohibits carriers or VoIP providers from implementing call-blocking technology that can help consumers who choose to use such technology to stop unwanted robocalls.” Order at ¶ 152. The FCC expressly rejected the notion that “[t]he current legal framework simply does not allow [phone companies] to decide for the consumer which calls should be allowed to go through and which should be blocked,” (Order at ¶ 153) and found that “[a]s long as the carrier offering its own product or coordinating with another product provider offers adequate disclosures, such as that the technology may inadvertently block wanted calls, consumers have the right to choose the technology.” (Order at ¶ 160.) In essence, the FCC found that although common carriers cannot block calls of their choosing, there is no rule against consumers choosing to block calls.
Continue Reading FCC Declines to Block Call-Blocking Technology (FCC TCPA Order Report Part 9 of 11)