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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

District Court rejects alarm company’s bid to escape vicarious liability under TCPA

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On April 3, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia denied an alarm company’s motion for summary judgment in multi-district litigation consisting of approximately 30 cases alleging the company is vicariously liable for the telemarketing conduct of its authorized retailers in violation of the TCPA. The company moved for summary judgment arguing, among other things, that it is not a “seller” governed by the TCPA and no evidence exists of an agency relationship between the company and the authorized retailers.

The court rejected these arguments, finding a genuine dispute of material fact as to the agency relationship based on “substantial evidence of the [the company’s] control over its dealers’ sales tactics,” including “the right to control the manner and means by which its Authorized dealers sold [the company]’s services and exercis[ed] that control.” Moreover, the court determined that the company was aware of the allegedly unlawful telemarketing calls through “dozens of complaints involving hundreds of consumers” but failed to take measures to address the problem. As for whether the company was considered a “seller” under the TCPA, the court noted that the authorized dealers worked exclusively for the company, the company had the right of first refusal to purchase the contracts sold by the dealers, the company was “totally dependent” on the dealers’ success, and the telemarketing calls were made to increase the flow of consumers to both the dealers and the company, therefore making the company a “seller” under the TCPA.

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