Summer 2017 has seen and will see some well-publicized releases of sequels, remakes, and reboots: Ridley Scott’s Alien Covenant; Johnny Depp back in his starring role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise; Stephen King’s It; and the latest installments in The Mummy, Transformers, and Spider Man series, to name a few. Even Baywatch got a big screen makeover.
Not to be left out, on August 1, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that, as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had done in October 2015, it would be releasing robocall and do not call consumer complaint information. However, the FTC releases such information on a daily basis, whereas the FCC’s release of complaint data is done weekly. According to the FTC’s press release announcing the initiative, “the robocaller phone numbers consumers provide will be released each day to telecommunications carriers and other industry partners that are implementing call-blocking solutions.” An example of the type of complaint information that the FTC releases is below.
While sharing consumer complaint data with call-blocking technology innovators—with the goal of stopping unlawful robocalls—may be well-intended, it also provides a treasure trove for the plaintiffs’ Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) bar and could lead to many telemarketers with compliant practices being dragged into baseless litigation. For example, the FTC makes no representation that such data is verified and there is a real possibility that the “company phone number” disseminated by the FTC is a spoofed one tied to a completely unrelated caller. Indeed, the FCC recently fined an individual $120 million for making nearly 100 million spoofed robocalls over a 3-month period, pretending to be unaffiliated travel companies and hotels. One wonders whether the FTC could provide consumer complaint information to call-blocking technology innovators in a manner that is more direct so as not to spur on private TCPA class action litigation, which already is a hotbed of activity. (A list of recently filed TCPA complaints is available here.)
News of the latest release of consumer telemarketing complaint data may not be the type of sequel that sellers wish to see this summer. But, if there is a silver lining, it is that Super Troopers 2 has just finished post-production. Although no date has been set for that movie’s release, fans of the first movie want to see the sequel—”meow!”