TCPA Gets Even More Complicated

August 11, 2017 at 9:06 am Leave a comment

TCPA Gets Even More Complicated

The Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit yesterday, revived a lawsuit by a consumer who claimed a bank violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by refusing her request that she not be called on her cell phone during work hours. This could be an operational nightmare.

First a quick refresher: The TCPA generally makes it unlawful for any business to make non-emergency calls using an automatic telephone dialing system without the receiving party’s prior consent. In recent years, Courts have ruled that consumers can orally revoke this consent. Schweitzer v. Comenity Bank addressed the issue of whether a consumer could partially revoke a bank’s authority to make automated phone calls.

The case involved a consumer who was delinquent on her credit card payments. When she got the card, she consented to allow Comenity Bank to call her cell phone. Normally I try to summarize these cases as briefly as possible but I can’t resist transcribing a chunk of the dialogue between the bank’s employee and our delinquent card holder. He couldn’t have teed this up any better for litigation if he was a law school professor. When she fell behind on her credit card payment, the bank called her on her cell phone and asked her to make a $35.00 payment. The following exchange took place:

Schweitzer said the following:

Unfortunately I can’t afford to pay [my past due payment] right now. And if you guys cannot call me, like, in the morning and during the work day, because I’m working, and I can’t really be talking about these things while I’m at work. My phone’s ringing off the hook with you guys calling me.

The employee replied that “[i]t’s a phone system. When it’s reporting two payments past due, it’s a computer that dials. We can’t stop the phone calls like that.”

The trial level court that reviewed the case dismissed the consumer’s lawsuit because she had clearly consented to the bank’s use of her cell phone. Furthermore, while the TCPA permits consumers to withdraw their consent, the rule of thumb has been that such withdrawals have to be complete. In this case, our consumer did not request that she no longer receive any phone calls, just that she not receive phone calls at specified times.

However, the 11th Circuit ruled that banks and other creditors should have the operational ability to know when a consumer has partially restricted their phone calls. I hope you can see now why this ruling is so potentially troubling. Currently, it is only directly binding on those of you who do work in states under the jurisdiction of the 11th Circuit but this decision is persuasive authority that could be adopted by other courts and is certainly something of which your collections people should be aware.

More Bad News on Taxi Medallions

This goes into the “don’t shoot the messenger” category but if your credit union is involved with taxi medallions, you should all take a look at the credit union watch blog’s latest analysis of the medallion industry available at: http://creditunionwatch.blogspot.com/2017/08/taxi-medallion-lender-progressive-cu.html. The news is not good and Keith’s analysis of industry trends has been spot-on.

Entry filed under: Compliance, Legal Watch. Tags: .

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Authored By:

Henry Meier, Esq., General Counsel, New York Credit Union Association.

The views Henry expresses are Henry’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Association.

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