Archive: July 2017

1
DISTRICT COURT SET TO RULE ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN FIRST AMENDMENT CHALLENGE TO TCPA
2
District Court Confirms That Text Messages Completing Consumer-Initiated Transaction Are Not Telemarketing
3
Federal Government Continues Defense Against First Amendment Challenge to TCPA

DISTRICT COURT SET TO RULE ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN FIRST AMENDMENT CHALLENGE TO TCPA

By Andrew C. Glass, Gregory N. Blase, Christopher J. Valente, Michael R. Creta, and Natasha C. Pereira

Last week, a bi-partisan coalition of political groups and the federal government completed briefing cross motions for summary judgment in American Association of Political Consultants, Inc., et al. v. Sessions, Case No. 5:16-cv-00252-D (E.D.N.C.).  The case challenges the constitutionality of a portion of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”).  The plaintiffs contend that the TCPA’s prohibition on making auto-dialed calls or texts to cell phones without the requisite consent, 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii) (the “cell phone ban”), imposes a content-based restriction on speech that fails to pass strict scrutiny and is unconstitutionally under-inclusive (the plaintiffs’ complaint is discussed here).  The government is defending the statute’s constitutionality (previously discussed here).

In their summary judgment briefing, the plaintiffs argued that content-based exemptions to the TCPA’s cell phone ban, such as an exemption for debt collection calls made on behalf of the government, render the cell phone ban unconstitutional.  According to the plaintiffs, these exemptions produce outcomes where certain speech is privileged in violation of the First Amendment.  In particular, the plaintiffs asserted that the exemptions fail to withstand strict scrutiny because they are not narrowly tailored to further a compelling governmental interest by the least restrictive means available.  Further, the plaintiffs rejected the government’s suggestion of severing the disputed exemptions because such action would not curb the power of Congress or the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) to promulgate future content-based exemptions.

The government responded to the plaintiffs’ arguments by asserting that the TCPA’s cell phone ban is a content-neutral “time, place, and manner regulation” concerned with restricting the method of calling cell phones, but not the content of those calls.  Alternatively, the government asserted that even if the TCPA was found to be a content-based restriction on speech, it would nonetheless survive strict scrutiny because it serves a compelling governmental interest in protecting consumer privacy, is narrowly tailored, and lacks a comparable alternative.  The government also argued that the court should not consider certain FCC orders providing exemptions to the TCPA’s cell phone ban because such orders do not call into question the constitutionality of the TCPA itself.  Finally, the government argued that should there be a finding that the government-debt exemption is unconstitutional, the court should sever that provision from the cell phone ban and leave the remainder of the TCPA intact.

Although we cannot predict how the court will decide the cross motions for summary judgment, it is significant that the court is set to rule on a broad challenge to the TCPA’s constitutionality.  K&L Gates LLP will continue to monitor the case and post developments as they occur.

District Court Confirms That Text Messages Completing Consumer-Initiated Transaction Are Not Telemarketing

By Joseph C. Wylie II, Molly K. McGinley, and Lexi D. Bond

A recent decision from the Western District of Washington, Noah Wick v. Twilio Inc., Case No. C16-00914RSL, resulted in dismissal of a putative class action lawsuit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S. Code § 227 (“TCPA”), against Twilio Inc. (“Twilio”), a cloud communications platform service company which allows software developers to programmatically make and receive phone calls and send and receive text messages using its platform. Although several of Twilio’s arguments for dismissal were rejected, the court agreed with Twilio that the plaintiffs’ claims should be dismissed because a text message sent to complete a customer-initiated transaction is not telemarketing and the customer in this instance had given prior express consent to be contacted by providing his mobile number to the sender. Read More

Federal Government Continues Defense Against First Amendment Challenge to TCPA

By Andrew C. Glass, Gregory N. Blase, Roger L. Smerage, and Matthew T. Houston

Earlier this month, the federal government filed briefs on cross motions for summary judgment in American Association of Political Consultants v. Lynch, Case No. 5:16-00252-D (E.D.N.C.). The case challenges the constitutionality of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 227 (“TCPA”) (previously discussed here and here).  The government defended the constitutionality of the statute on several bases.

First, the government argued that the TCPA is a “valid time, place, and manner regulation” and does not distinguish between the content or nature of such calls. In doing so, the government analogized the TCPA to regulations that prevent the ringing of doorbells after certain hours and attempted to distinguish the TCPA from unconstitutional ordinances regulating signs based on the type of information conveyed.

Second, the government argued that in determining whether the TCPA is “content-neutral,” the court should disregard FCC orders providing certain “exemptions” to the TCPA. The plaintiffs contend that the exemptions illustrate how the TCPA favors some types of speech over others.  According to the government, however, (1) review of those orders is outside the court’s jurisdiction in analyzing the constitutionality of the TCPA, and (2) the “exemptions” are not actually exemptions and thus do not favor a particular type of speech.  The government further asserted that to the extent any “exemption” is actually an exemption, such as the government-debt exemption passed in 2016, it is severable from the remainder of the TCPA.

Finally, the government argued that even if the TCPA regulates the content of speech, it withstands strict scrutiny because the “protection of residential privacy” is a compelling governmental interest, and the TCPA is related to that interest where it acts to protect against the invasion of residential privacy. The government also posited that the TCPA is narrowly tailored because it is limited to a small subset of speech, rather than all potential methods of communication, and that the statute is least restrictive option to accomplish that goal.

Although it is difficult to predict how the court may rule on the parties’ cross motions, the government’s arguments provide insight regarding the bases on which the court is likely to evaluate the constitutionality of the TCPA.

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