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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • FCC proposes to classify ringless voicemails as “calls” under the TCPA

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On February 2, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced a proposal that would classify technology that leaves ringless voicemails on consumers’ cell phones as “calls” under the TCPA and therefore subject to the FCC’s robocalling restrictions. If adopted by the full Commission, callers using this form of technology would be required to obtain a consumer’s consent before delivering a ringless voicemail. The announcement explained that the TCPA “prohibits making any non-emergency call using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice to a wireless telephone number without the prior express consent of the called party.” According to Chairwoman Rosenworcel, ringless voicemails should face the same consumer protection rules as other robocalls. The proposal is in response to a petition that asked the FCC to find that ringless voicemails are not calls protected by the TCPA.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FCC Robocalls TCPA

  • District Court grants class certification in robocall TCPA suit


    On January 27, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona granted a plaintiff’s renewed motion for class certification in an action against a national bank defendant for allegedly contacting noncustomers with unauthorized robocalls, in violation of the TCPA. According to the plaintiff’s motion for class certification, the defendant allegedly placed calls with an artificial or prerecorded voice to the plaintiff class, who were not the defendant’s customers. The plaintiffs alleged that they did not consent to the calls, which regarded overdue credit card accounts, and sought to certify a nationwide class of those who received these calls since August 2014 despite not being a customer. Among other things, the defendant argued that the common questions of fact did not predominate because individualized determinations needed to be made to determine whether the defendant had consent to call a putative class member, and whether a prerecorded message actually played. The court determined, however, that the plaintiffs’ allegations were not only “typical of the class, they are largely identical.” Additionally, though the court noted that “some persons who otherwise would be class members may have consented to receive [the defendant’s] robocalls,” the court was ultimately “persuaded based on [the plaintiffs’] argument and past caselaw” that “individualized issues of consent can be overcome without resort to a series of minitrials.” The court further noted that “the basic questions in this case are the same for all class members: Did [the defendant] call a putative class member without authorization? And, did a prerecorded or artificial voice play during the call? If the answer to both questions is yes—and all evidence indicates that it will be yes for many putative class members—recovery is appropriate. Precedent ... demonstrates these questions can be litigated as a class.”

    Courts TCPA Class Action Robocalls

  • FTC says robocall violations top consumers’ do-not-call complaints

    Federal Issues

    On January 5, the FTC issued its National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry biennial report to Congress. According to the report, more than 244 million consumers have now placed their telephone numbers on the DNC Registry over the past two years. The report also highlighted that in FY 2021, the Commission received more than five million DNC complaints, the majority of which reported robocalls violations as opposed to live telemarketing. The FTC reported that the increased number of illegal telemarketing calls correlates with advancements in technology that make it easier for telemarketers to “spoof” the caller ID information accompanying a call. “[M]any telemarketers use automated dialing technology to make calls that deliver prerecorded messages (commonly referred to as ‘robocalls’), which allow violators to make very high volumes of illegal calls without significant expense,” the FTC said. Imposters posing as government representatives or legitimate business entities topped the complaint list, followed by calls related to warranties and protection plans, debt-reduction offers, and medical and prescription issues. Last month, in response to the consistently high level of impersonator scam complaints, the FTC issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comments on a wide-range of questions related to government and business impersonation fraud (covered by InfoBytes here). The FTC noted that these scammers are looking for information that can be used to commit identity theft or seek monetary payment and often request that funds be paid through wire transfer, gift cards, or cryptocurrency. Additionally, the FTC stated that since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has received more than 18,000 Covid-related DNC complaints.

    Federal Issues FTC Robocalls Spoofing Covid-19 Consumer Protection Do Not Call Registry

  • Ohio enacts robocall legislation

    State Issues

    On December 1, Ohio’s governor signed into law SB 54, which, under most circumstances, prohibits companies from knowingly transmitting Caller ID information that is either misleading or inaccurate through a telecommunication service or voiceover Internet protocol service. Among other things, the bill creates additional penalties for inaccurate caller ID, provides the Ohio attorney general the authority to file civil actions in state or federal court, provides state criminal penalties in certain instances, and requires entities that use a telephone number that is identified as “unknown” or “blocked” to leave voicemail messages and include the person's identity. The law is effective March 2, 2022.

    State Issues State Legislation Ohio Robocalls State Attorney General

  • FTC releases 2021 National Do Not Call Registry Data Book

    Federal Issues

    On November 23, the FTC released the National Do Not Call Registry Data Book for Fiscal Year 2021. The Data Book provides the most recent fiscal year information available on telemarketing sales calls and robocall complaints, including the types of calls reported to the FTC and a state-by-state analysis. In FY 2021, the Commission received 3.4 million robocall complaints—an increase from the 2.8 million robocall complaints received in FY 2020 but consistent with the higher number of complaints received in prior years. Imposters posing as government representatives or legitimate business entities topped the complaint list, followed by warranties and protection plans and supposed debt-reduction offers. Other common complaints included calls related to medical and prescription issues as well as computers and technical support. The Data Book contains aggregate data about phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry, telemarketers and sellers that access the registry, as well as DNC complaints by topic and type.

    Federal Issues FTC Consumer Protection Robocalls Do Not Call Registry

  • District Court preliminarily approves TCPA class action settlement


    On November 8, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted preliminary approval for a $38.5 million settlement in a class action against a national gas service company and other gas companies (collectively, defendants) for allegedly violating the TCPA by soliciting calls to cellular telephones. The plaintiff’s memorandum of law requested preliminary approval of the class action settlement. The proposed settlement sought to establish a settlement class of all U.S. residents who “from March 9, 2011 until October 29, 2021, received a telephone call on a cellular telephone using a prerecorded message or artificial voice” regarding several topics including: (i) the payment or status of bills; (ii) an “important matter” regarding current or past bills and other related issues; and (iii) a disconnect notice concerning a current or past utility account. Under the terms of the preliminarily approved settlement, the defendants will provide monetary relief to claiming class members in an estimated amount between $50 and $150. The settlement would additionally require the companies to implement new training programs and procedures to prevent any future TCPA violations. The settlement permits counsel for the proposed class to seek up to 33 percent of the settlement fund to cover attorney fees and expenses.

    Courts TCPA Settlement Class Action Robocalls Consumer Finance

  • New York enacts robocall measures

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On November 8, the New York governor signed measures to help prevent robocalls and increase consumer protections. The measures build upon federal actions to combat robocalls and “will enable telecom companies to prevent these calls from coming in in the first place, as well as empower our state government to ensure that voice service providers are validating who is making these calls so enforcement action can be taken against bad actors,” Governor Kathy Hochul stated.

    S.6267a requires telecommunication companies to block certain calls, including those from (i) numbers that are not valid North American numbering plan numbers; (ii) numbers that are not allocated to a provider by the North American numbering plan administrator or the pooling administrator; and (iii) unused numbers that are allocated to a provider. According to the governor’s press release, the act codifies into state law the provisions of an FCC 2017 rule that took effect in June 2021 and allows telecommunications companies to proactively block calls from certain numbers. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) These types of numbers, the release states, “are indicative of ‘spoofing’ schemes in which the true caller identity is masked behind a fake, invalid number.” The act takes effect immediately.

    The second act, S.4281a, requires voice services providers to authenticate calls using the STIR/SHAKEN call authentication framework. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in 2020, the FCC, pursuant to the TRACED Act, adopted new rules requiring providers to implement the STIR/SHAKEN framework by June 2021. Under New York’s new measure, providers have up to 12 months to implement this framework or an “alternative technology that provides comparable or superior capability to verify and authenticate caller identification in the internet protocol networks of voice service providers.” Violators face a fine of up to $100,000 for each offense per day that the framework is not in place. This act is also effective immediately.

    Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security State Issues State Legislation New York Robocalls FCC

  • FTC increases dark patterns enforcement

    Federal Issues

    On October 28, the FTC announced a new enforcement policy statement warning companies against using illegal dark patterns that could “trick or trap consumers into subscription services” which are sometimes used by sellers in automatic renewal subscriptions, continuity plans, free-to-pay or free-to-pay conversions, and pre-notification plans. According to the FTC, the agency is enhancing its enforcement due to increasing complaints about the financial harms caused by deceptive sign-up tactics, including unauthorized charges or continuous billing that is impossible to cancel. The policy statement, among other things, “puts companies on notice that they will face legal action if their sign-up process fails to provide clear, up-front information, obtain consumers’ informed consent, and make cancellation easy.” According to the enforcement policy statement, businesses are required to follow three requirements, or be subject to law enforcement action: (i) disclose clearly and conspicuously all material terms of the product or service; (ii) receive the consumer’s express informed consent prior to charging them for a product or service; and (iii) provide easy and simple cancellation to the consumer.

    Federal Issues FTC Robocalls Enforcement Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security

  • District Court approves order permanently banning defendants from making robocalls

    Federal Issues

    On October 21, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida issued an order approving a permanent injunction and $6.4 million civil money penalty against the remaining participants in a cruise line telemarketing operation allegedly aimed at marketing free cruise packages to consumers. In January, the FTC filed a complaint against the defendants (two individuals and five companies they controlled, including the cruise line) for their alleged involvement in the telemarketing operation. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the complaint asserted violations of the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule. The same day the complaint was filed, the FTC announced that it had entered into two settlement agreements—one with a call center and two individuals, and one with an additional individual—for their roles in the telemarketing operation. The court’s October order follows a recent FTC announcement (covered by InfoBytes here), indicating it had reached an agreement with the defendants who neither admitted nor denied the allegations. The court’s order requires the individual defendants to cooperate with any future FTC investigations and to disclose “the contents of their auto-dialed, telemarketing, or pre-recorded telephone communications and records or other information pertaining to [the] autodialed, telemarketing, or pre-recorded telephone communications.” The order also suspends the $6.4 million civil money penalty after the two individual defendants each pay $50,000 to the Treasury Department.

    Federal Issues FTC Enforcement Robocalls FTC Act Telemarketing Sales Rule UDAP

  • FCC proposes obligations on international robocalls

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On October 1, the FCC released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to impose obligations on gateway providers to prevent illegal robocalls originating abroad from reaching U.S. consumers and businesses. Among other things, the NPRM seeks to require domestic gateway providers “to apply STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication to, and perform robocall mitigation on, foreign-originated calls with U.S. numbers.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, the STIR/SHAKEN framework addresses “unlawful spoofing by confirming that a call actually comes from the number indicated in the Caller ID, or at least that the call entered the US network through a particular voice service provider or gateway.” According to the FCC, the STIR/SHAKEN framework decreases illegal spoofing, provides assistance to law enforcement, and strengthens voice service providers’ blocking of robocalls using illegally spoofed caller ID information. The notice also proposes ensuring that gateway providers are engaged in the fight against illegal robocalls by requiring them to timely respond to traceback requests, which are utilized to block illegal robocalls and inform FCC enforcement investigations. Additionally, the NPRM seeks to require that both the gateway provider and the network accepting questionable traffic from the gateway provider actively block such calls. In a statement, acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel stated that such measures “will help [the FCC] tackle the growing number of international robocalls.” Comments on the proposed rules are due 30 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FCC Robocalls Federal Issues Federal Register


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