New Jersey traditionally has had the most onerous state Do Not Call law, which prohibited all telemarketing sales calls to cell phones.  The law did not even allow such calls to be made with the consumer’s consent.  With 90% of Americans owning cell phones and 58.8% of households being either entirely or predominantly wireless today, that was particularly bad news for telemarketers.

However, on January 29, 2015, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law state Senate bill 1382, which significantly loosens the state’s restrictions on telemarketing to cell phones.  The bill clarifies the state’s Do Not Call law to prohibit only unsolicited telemarketing sales calls from being made to cell phones.  The amended law – which took in effect immediately upon Governor Christie’s signing – defines “unsolicited telemarketing sales call” as any telemarketing sales call other than a call made (1) in response to the express written request of the consumer called or (2) to an existing customer.  The New Jersey Senate Commerce Committee clarified that the latter carve-out from the state Do Not Call law permits the placement of collection calls and calls to follow up on customer’s contractual obligations “unless the customer has stated to the telemarketer that the customer no longer desires to receive the telemarketing sales calls of the telemarketer.”


Continue Reading “Glory Days”: New Jersey Allows Certain Telemarketing Calls to Cell Phones

It seems as if every few weeks, a new court decision weighs in on how to interpret the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), especially the meaning of “automatic telephone dialing system” (“autodialer”) and “called party.”  Trade associations and telemarketers have petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) for clarification, hoping to reduce the compliance burden and prevent lawsuits from aggressive plaintiff’s attorneys (See TCPA Update for recent filings).  Now, fourteen United States Senators have provided their two cents, not on the specific meaning of any definitions, but rather the general direction the FCC should take when clarifying the rules. The Senators’ clear message:  Don’t weaken the TCPA’s protections for consumers.

On January 28th, fourteen Senators signed a letter to Chairman Wheeler at the FCC expressing “deep concerns” that the proposed changes being considered by the FCC would “undermine the intent and spirit of the TCPA.”  The letter discussed the purpose of the TCPA, indicating that it was passed by Congress to protect consumers from intrusions into the home by telemarketers.  Emphasizing the importance of broader protection for consumers, the letter explained that “by banning autodialing and pre-recorded calls to land lines and mobile phones, with certain exceptions, and establishing the National Do Not Call Registry, the law created a zone of privacy that remains hugely popular with consumers to this day.”  In closing, the letter reiterated: 
Continue Reading Some Senators Make an Unsolicited Call to the FCC

Telemarketers are all too aware that automatic telephone dialing systems (“autodialers”) are a hot topic in the litigation world. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), 47 U.S.C. § 227, and the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) implementing rules, 47 C.F.R. § 64.1200, prohibit making any autodialed call or text message to cell phones without the called party’s prior express consent (with express written consent required for marketing calls). However, as we have noted previously, no one seems to know the full extent of devices that are properly classified as autodialers under the TCPA. As a result, parties have been fighting over the proper meaning of autodialer in the courts, and numerous petitions have been submitted to the FCC requesting clarification. As our TCPA Alert highlights, the lawsuits continue to pour in, while the FCC prepares clarifications and guidance that could remove some of the uncertainty.
Continue Reading TCPA Autodialers 101: What Makes an Autodialer and What’s Next from the FCC

Not to be outdone by last year’s changes to Federal Communication Commission rules under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has teed up a number of issues that may be the focal point of big changes to the Telemarketing Sales Rule (“TSR”).  Similar to the TCPA rules, the TSR includes the FTC’s version of Do-Not-Call rules and restrictions on the use of prerecorded message calls.  Unlike the TCPA rules, the TSR imposes certain disclosure and other requirements for outbound calls, some inbound calls, and upsells on both outbound and inbound calls.  When the FTC announced on July 31, 2014, that the TSR has come due for review, it asked for public comment on issues that suggest the FTC is considering restrictions on telephone “data pass” and broader application of negative option and other disclosure requirements to inbound calls currently exempt from the scope of the TSR.  While the ongoing stream of lawsuits filed under the TCPA continues, it is worth taking a closer look at the FTC’s Rule Review, Request for Public Comments (“Request”) to determine what additional restrictions/requirements could be on the horizon for telemarketers. 
Continue Reading TSR Under Review: What Telemarketers Should Know about FTC’s Request for Public Comments

With the FCC’s recent record fine of $7.5 million against Sprint Corp. for alleged Do-Not-Call violations, the more restrictive prior express written consent rule for marketing calls made to cell phones by an autodialer, and the continuous filing of class action complaints (See TCPA Update for recent filings), it is easy to understand why companies are wary of liability under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”).  As we’ve discussed previously, general uncertainty around how to interpret certain provisions of the TCPA has resulted in numerous petitions being filed with the FCC.

Although many areas still require clarification, the law around vicarious liability under the TCPA continues to develop.  Most recently, on July 2, 2014, the Ninth Circuit weighed in on Thomas v. Taco Bell Corp. in an unpublished decision that addresses vicarious liability under the TCPA. Let’s take a closer look.


Continue Reading No Agency, No Claim: Taco Bell and the TCPA’s Vicarious Liability Standard

Over the past couple of months, we have been waving the caution flag in the air while attempting to warn businesses about the potential liability for violations under the TCPA.  In our previous posts, we noted the numerous consumer lawsuits that have been filed against businesses throughout the country, a list which continues to grow on a weekly basis (see our TCPA Update for more recent filings).  On May 19, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) announced a record $7.5 million fine against Sprint Corp. (“Sprint”) in a settlement for violations of the “Do-Not-Call” law, which should send a clear message to telemarketers that class actions are not the only threat to a telemarketer’s bottom line.  Indeed, the FCC’s statement on the settlement explicitly states:

We expect companies to respect the privacy of consumers who have opted out of marketing calls.  When a consumer tells a company to stop calling or texting with promotional pitches, that request must be honored.  Today’s settlement leaves no question that protecting consumer privacy is a top enforcement priority.

First, a brief refresher of the “Do-Not-Call” law’s history and basic statutory framework may be helpful.  Under 15 U.S.C. § 6151, the “Do-Not-Call Registry Act of 2003” went into effect in 2003, establishing a national registry for consumers to opt out of telemarketing calls for free.  The statute formally ratified the FTC’s do-not-call registry provision of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, 16 C.F.R. § 310.4(b)(1)(iii).  The “Do-Not-Call Implementation Act of 2003,” 15 U.S.C. § 6152 et seq. authorized the FCC to issue do-not-call regulations under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), 47 U.S.C. § 227 et seq.  As a result, in June 2003, the FCC supplemented its TCPA rules to also include a national Do-Not-Call list.  As a result, businesses must comply with both FCC and FTC regulations when making telemarketing calls.  Note that the FCC Guide on Unwanted Marketing Calls indicates the law applies only to personal landline and wireless phones—not business phones.  The “Do-Not-Call” law also exempts calls made with express prior written consent, calls made by nonprofit organizations, or calls from a person or organization with an established business relationship. 
Continue Reading Caller Beware: FCC’s Record “Do-Not-Call” Fine Highlights Liability Under TCPA

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) recently announced that it intends to begin review of, and solicit comments on the Telemarketing Sales Rule (“TSR”).  The opportunity to provide comments will be a significant opportunity for marketers to weigh-in on one of the FTC’s main regulatory and enforcement tools.

Despite its focus on telemarketing practices, the TSR’s breadth and impact goes far beyond merely the telephone and the well-known Do Not Call Registry.  The TSR is one of the few methods the FTC can efficiently (although sometimes controversially) adopt rules prohibiting deceptive or abusive practices.  And, it’s the TSR’s broad scope of coverage that has made it a popular enforcement vehicle for the FTC, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), and state Attorneys General.

Since the TSR was promulgated it has undergone several significant expansions, and at the same time the marketplace for telemarketing has changed in significant ways that impact consumers and marketers. The TSR gives effect to the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act (the “Telemarketing Act”) that was signed into law in 1994. The Telemarketing Act directed the FTC to adopt a rule prohibiting deceptive or abusive practices in telemarketing and specified, among other things, certain acts or practices that should be addressed, and additional practices if found deceptive or abusive. Pursuant to its authority under the Telemarketing Act, the FTC promulgated the TSR in August 1995, and has subsequently amended the TSR on three occasions, in 2003, 2008, and in 2010. 
Continue Reading On Deck, Telemarketing Sales Rule Regulatory Review