Mobile marketing, sweepstakes and services, including location-based services, are governed by an alphabet soup of statutes and regulations: TCPA, COPPA, CAN-SPAM, CPNI, etc. To complicate compliance even further, numerous class action lawsuits in state and federal courts have addressed issues and nuances that the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, and state regulatory agencies or

In FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., the US Supreme Court reversed FCC indecency fines against two TV broadcast networks.   The decision has garnered a lot of attention in the broadcast industry and conventional media (and rightly so).   News stories describe the decision as a clear victory for broadcasters.  Many commentators also noted the apparently shaky ground of the 1978 Pacifica decision finding George Carlin’s “Filthy Words” monologue indecent.   (Including this decidedly non-legal discussion.) These are topics of great interest to the broadcast industry.

For all its significance in the broadcast world, the decision is equally significant for non-broadcasters.  In Fox Television, the Supreme Court sets a high bar for FCC enforcement of general obligations under the Communications Act, not just the FCC’s indecency standard.  As a result, Fox Television will constrain the FCC’s enforcement abilities in several prominent areas of common carrier regulation as well.  Most significantly, we believe that Fox Television limits the FCC’s ability to impose fines for violations of Section 201(b)’s prohibition on unjust and unreasonable practices.  Unless the FCC has provided fair notice to common carriers of the conduct required under Section 201(b), it may not impose sanctions in the enforcement context.


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Days before tomorrow’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Workshop on Mobile Disclosures, the FCC weighed in with a pair of releases on privacy and security issues raised by mobile devices.  In the first item released on Friday, the FCC is seeking to refresh its record regarding the privacy and data security practices of mobile wireless service providers in light of recent disclosures concerning software developed by CarrierIQ.  The FCC’s Public Notice seeks to update the record in a five-year-old rulemaking proceeding addressing carrier obligations in connection with devices that function on their networks.  In the second item released, the FCC released its staff report on location-based services (LBS).  Consistent with the approach of the Administration and the FTC (as was discussed at our 4th Annual Privacy Seminar), the FCC focused on ways carriers can protect information from misuse or mishandling, transparency in carrier disclosures and maximizing consumer choice in the use of LBS.

Collectively, the releases demonstrate that the FCC will continue to work cooperatively with the FTC and the Administration (including the NTIA) to address privacy issues in the mobile market. The FCC appears to believe it has sufficient statutory authority to act on mobile and device privacy, with its emphasis being on its jurisdiction over carrier practices in connection with both services and devices.

Josh Guyan contributed to this post.
 


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On February 16, 2012, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP hosted the seminar and audiocast, “Privacy in 2012: What to Watch Regarding COPPA, Mobile Apps, and Evolving Law Enforcement and Public Policy Trends.” The seminar highlighted regulatory and legislative developments in privacy and information security during the past year, with an emphasis on children’s online privacy

According to FierceWireless and other news sources, the wireless industry announced this morning an agreement with the FCC and consumer groups to provide free text alerts to consumers before they exceed their plan limits on voice minutes, text messages, data usage or international roaming.  The press release is available on the CTIA website here.  A good

Once again, USAC and the federal Universal Service Fund are driving fundamental classification questions regarding telecom services.  In the latest example, USAC has requested the FCC’s guidance on how to treat text messaging services for universal service purposes.  Several parties have tried before to have the FCC opine on the classification of text messaging services, with no luck so far.  Only time will tell whether USAC’s request will spur FCC action where others have failed.


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This order stands in stark contrast to the nominal CPNI settlements, odd refund provisions and low-ball forfeiture penalties we’ve discussed in this blog.  Today, the FCC announced an eye-popping $25 million settlement with Verizon Wireless in its investigation of Verizon’s unauthorized billing of wireless data charges.  The so-called "mystery fees" investigation stemmed from allegations that Verizon

As consumers increasingly rely on mobile phones, marketers naturally are following.  Text messaging, in particular, has proven to be a popular marketing method.  It is not surprising, therefore, that we are seeing in increase in litigation over the obligations of senders and mobile carriers with respect to text messaging campaigns. 

The latest example of this trend

While the FCC has taken an interest in mobile marketing by carriers — most notably with investigations of carrier early termination fees and proceedings examining wireless consumer "bill shock" — it also is helpful to remember that the mobile content providers are subject to enforcement for deceptive marketing practices.  Our colleagues at the Ad Law Access