District Court grants preliminary approval of TCPA class action settlement
On June 25, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order preliminarily approving a class action settlement between class members and a student loan management enterprise (defendants) accused of violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by using an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) to place calls to cellular telephones without receiving prior express written consent. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants used a phone number previously used by the Department of Education (Department) to contact borrowers and which was listed on the Department’s forms, website, and billing statements, so that when class members returned calls under the impression that they were contacting the Department, the defendants collected and stored the phone numbers. The plaintiff further alleged that the stored numbers were used by the defendants to place calls using an ATDS for the purpose of “mislead[ing] class members into paying for student loan forgiveness and payment programs that were otherwise offered for free by the federal government.” According to the order, preliminarily approval of the settlement prevents possible further litigation and, given the current “‘wind-down’ mode” of one of the defendants, prevents a risk that class members seeking relief would be unable to collect on a large judgment. Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants have agreed to establish a $1.1 million settlement fund, as well as to injunctive relief that prohibits the defendants from using an ATDS to contact individuals without first receiving prior written consent.