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October 16, 2017

Report: TCPA Lawsuits Rose Following Ruling

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act is a controversial thing.

Some people see it as a way to protect average folks from annoying and unwanted fax, text, and voice communications. But, many businesses consider it an overly restrictive regulation whose primary benefactors are plaintiffs’ attorneys.

The TCPA is a federal statute that went into effect in 1991. It didn’t get much attention initially, according to Bloomberg BNA in a May report. But ,when President Barack Obama got in office, the TCPA went from being a “nearly forgotten relic of the early 1990's 2G wireless era, to a muscular consumer protection juggernaut,” according to Bloomberg.

Those that agree with that point of view have come to jokingly say that TCPA stands for Total Cash for Plaintiff's' Attorneys. And the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform reinforced that narrative in August with the release of a study titled TCPA Litigation Sprawl.

The report says that there were nearly 1,000 more TCPA lawsuits filed in the 17 months after the FCC’s order relating to the TCPA than there were the 17 months prior to it. And it says more than 30 percent of the cases brought are class action suits.

The FCC order referred to here was issued in July 2015. It was a declaratory ruling talking about how much consumers dislike robocalls and telemarketing texts. And it discusses “heightened protection to wireless consumers, for whom robocalls can be costly and particularly intrusive.”

The financial industry has been hardest hit by TCPA lawsuits.

“Of the cases filed, 36% have been brought against banks and other financial entities, followed by the collections industry with 18% of the cases,” according to the source at the above link. “Other industries that have been targeted in TCPA litigation include healthcare (8.4%), retail (7.1.%), education (6.6%), marketing (2.3%) and the auto industry (2.2%).”

In other recent TCPA news:

• The National Law Review in May reported that the D.C. Circuit ruled the FCC overreached when it required that solicited faxes include specific opt out notices. That “will end many pending Telephone Consumer Protection Act cases premises on faxes sent with consent that contained allegedly deficient or no opt-out language.”

• Wells Fargo this summer agreed to pay $14.8 million to settle a TCPA class action lawsuit. The suite alleged that Wells Fargo Dealer Services Inc. used an automatic telephone dialing system and/or artificial or prerecorded voice to make calls or send texs to cell phones without the recipient’s consent.

• Also this summer, All About the Message LLC withdrew its FCC petition asking the commission to declare it’s not in violation of the TCPA to leave voice messages directly on voicemail boxes using automated systems.

Edited by Mandi Nowitz

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