In the latest episode of Full Spectrum’s Inside the TCPA series, Partner Steve Augustino and Associate Chris Laughlin discuss a series of FCC orders that require implementation of a call authentication framework called STIR/SHAKEN. They cover the FCC’s anti-robocall program, the specifics of STIR/SHAKEN, its implementation requirements and deadlines, and other implications for service providers,
The upcoming election will bring changes to the FCC, regardless of which party wins the White House. In this episode of Kelley Drye’s Full Spectrum, Partners John Heitmann and Steve Augustino are joined by Dana Wood, co-chair of Kelley Drye’s Government Relations and Public Policy (GRPP) practice, for a discussion of the potential organizational…
It has been more than two years since the D.C. Circuit found the Federal Communications Commission’s (the “FCC”) discussion of predictive dialers and other equipment alleged to be an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS,” or “autodialer”) to “offer no meaningful guidance” on the question. In the absence of an FCC ruling on the remand, multiple courts of appeals have addressed the statute’s definition. In the most recent case, Allan v. Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, the Sixth Circuit adopted (in a split decision) a broad definition of an autodialer. Construing the term ATDS to include both devices that “generate and dial random or sequential numbers,” and “that dial from a stored list of numbers,” the Sixth Circuit has aligned itself with the Second and Ninth Circuits in a growing circuit split, with the Third, Seventh and Eleventh Circuits adopting a narrower interpretation. At this point, all eyes are on the Supreme Court, which accepted a case addressing the ATDS definition for next term.¹ The FCC, meanwhile, is not likely to address the core ATDS definition until after the Supreme Court ruling.
Continue Reading Sixth Circuit Holds That Stored-Number Systems Meet the TCPA’s Definition of an Autodialer, Deepening Circuit Split to be Addressed by the Supreme Court Next Term
On July 9, 2020, the Supreme Court granted Facebook’s petition for certiorari in a case with potentially broad implications for both class action litigation and business communications with their current and potential customers. The Supreme Court’s disposition of Facebook’s petition may settle the complex question of what qualifies as an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 227, et seq. (“TCPA”).
The TCPA prohibits telemarketing calls to be placed using an ATDS without the requisite level of prior consent. Thus, the definition of what technology qualifies as an ATDS is often a fundamental, threshold question upon which TCPA litigation turns. Prior to 2015, the FCC had offered various, sometimes vague, interpretations of the term. In 2015, the FCC offered an expansive definition, which was set aside in March 2018 in the ACA International decision. While the issue has been before the FCC on remand for over two years now, courts nevertheless engaged in their own analysis of the statute, resulting in a broadening Circuit split on how the law is interpreted and applied and divergent outcomes based on the court in which the case is filed. Now the Supreme Court is poised (potentially) to resolve that dispute.
On July 6, 2020, in a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the TCPA, but severed as unconstitutional the government debt exception. William P. Barr et al. v. American Association of Political Consultants et al., Case No. 19-631 (2020). Our preview of the Supreme Court’s consideration of the Barr case can be found here and our summary of the oral argument can be found here.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Upholds Constitutionality of the TCPA
On the same day that the FCC set a call blocking declaratory ruling for vote at its July 2020 Open Meeting, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau issued rulings in two long-pending petitions for clarification of the requirements of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). Although these clarifications do not address the core questions regarding the definition of an autodialer and consent requirements that were remanded two years ago in ACA International v. FCC, they may signal an effort to clean up TCPA issues in what is expected to be the waning months of FCC Chairman Pai’s tenure at the Commission.
In the first ruling, P2P Alliance, the Bureau ruled that an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) is not determined by whether the equipment has the capability to send a large volume of calls or texts in a short period of time. Instead, the Bureau, while recognizing that the Commission’s interpretation of the ATDS definition remains pending, ruled that “whether the calling platform or equipment is an autodialer turns on whether such equipment is capable of dialing random or sequential telephone numbers without human intervention.” The Bureau also provides an illuminating discussion of the so-called “human intervention” element of prior FCC statements regarding autodialers.
In the second ruling, Anthem, Inc., the Bureau denied a petition to exempt certain healthcare-related calls from the TCPA’s consent requirements. In this order, the Bureau breaks less new ground and instead reiterates that prior express consent must be obtained before a call (or text) is made and that the supposed value or “urgency” of the communication does not necessarily make it permissible.
Besides these two petitions, the Commission has nearly three dozen petitions pending before it on a variety of matters relating to exemptions from the TCPA’s consent requirements, the collection and revocation of consent, the “junk fax” provisions, and other questions raised by the flood of TCPA class action litigation in the last five years. If the FCC begins addressing these other pending petitions, the course of TCPA class action litigation could change significantly.
On Wednesday, May 6th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a case concerning the scope of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) that is of great interest to businesses and communications industry practitioners. In William P. Barr et al. v. American Association of Political Consultants et al., Case No. 19-631 (2020) (“Barr”) the Supreme Court agreed to review a ruling by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which declared a 2015 government debt collection exemption unconstitutional and severed the provision from the remainder of the 1991 TCPA. The 2015 amendment exempts calls from the TCPA’s autodialer restriction, if the call relates to the collection of debts guaranteed by the U.S. government. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will consider if: 1) the government-debt exception to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991’s automated-call restriction violates the First Amendment; and 2) whether the proper remedy for any constitutional violation is to sever the exception from the remainder of the statute.
TCPA litigation has largely focused on the autodialer restriction over the past decade. In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) adopted an expansive interpretation of the restriction, which the U.S. Court of Appeals vacated and remanded in 2018. While the industry has waited for the FCC to offer further guidance, entities making calls and sending texts have navigated an environment plagued by uncertainty. Several courts of appeals have adopted conflicting interpretations of the autodialer provision. Meanwhile, the FCC could offer its interpretation at any time, throwing the issue into further litigation in all probability. In this environment, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the constitutionality of one TCPA exemption in the Barr case. Many are hoping for a decision that goes beyond the 2015 amendment and offers definitive guidance on the autodialer provision’s scope. This post discusses what to expect – and what to watch for – in the Supreme Court’s oral argument this week.
The FCBA Privacy and Data Security Committee will present a virtual CLE on Tuesday, April 21 from 3:00 – 5:20 p.m. entitled “Dealing with Robocalls: The Continued Battle Against Robocalls and Unfinished Business with the TCPA.” Join Kelley Drye Partner Steve Augustino and other industry experts as they discuss the TRACED Act, FCC robocall proceedings,…
The FTC and FCC have taken a number of actions to stem unlawful robocalls generally and, during the COVID-19 pandemic, to stem harmful and deceptive calls that seek to exploit the COVID-19 crisis. Even amid the backdrop of their long-standing commitment, the agencies’ most recent action stands out as an aggressive new approach to unlawful calls. On April 3, 2020, the enforcement arms of each agency jointly sent warning letters to three Voice over Internet Protocol (“VoIP”) service providers allegedly facilitating the transmission of international scam telemarketing calls originating overseas. The letters make an unprecedented demand: block the traffic of specific allegedly unlawful actors or have all of your traffic blocked by other carriers. In this post, we’ll take a look at this new approach, and discuss its relationship to the broader provisions of the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement Act (“TRACED Act”), which institutes a number of measures designed to combat illegal robocalls.
Continue Reading FCC/FTC Stake out Aggressive Robocall Position, Tell Gateway VoIP Providers to Block COVID-19 Robocalls – or Be Blocked Themselves
The FCC plans to mandate that voice service providers adopt caller ID authentication technology to combat illegal “spoofing” and deregulate longstanding end-user access charges at its next meeting scheduled for March 31, 2020. Under the FCC’s proposal, voice service providers that originate or terminate calls would be required to employ STIR/SHAKEN technology (a framework of interconnected standards to authenticate phone calls as they are passed from carrier to carrier) in their networks no later than June 30, 2021, allowing them and other providers in the call chain to verify that calls are coming from the displayed caller ID number. The proposal would implement provisions of the recently-passed TRACED Act, which requires the FCC to kick off a multitude of near-term rulemakings and other actions aimed at addressing unlawful spoofing and robocalling operations. FCC Chairman Pai previously urged major providers to adopt STIR/SHAKEN technology voluntarily, but his assessment is that the voluntary approach did not move fast enough. In addition, the FCC anticipates launching a rulemaking to deregulate a host of end-user charges related to interstate access service and prohibit carriers from invoicing such charges through separate line items to simplify customer bills.
Although the March agenda is relatively light, the STIR/SHAKEN and access charge items could significantly impact provider costs, tariffing practices, and billing procedures. As a result, providers should closely examine the FCC’s proposals and get their input in early in light of the agency’s recent decision to restrict in-person meetings and expand telework in response to the coronavirus pandemic. You will find more information on the key March meeting items after the break: