Victory for ACA as appeals court decision overturns the FCC’s expansive interpretation of the TCPA

ACA International, the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals, and businesses and organizations from a wide variety of industries secured a major victory today from U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in its landmark case: ACA International v. Federal Communications Commission, et al. In handing down its hotly-anticipated decision in the pivotal ACA Int’l case, ruling 3-0 in favor of business industries, the D.C. Circuit Court focused on the key issues ACA presented in its challenge to the 2015 Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) Declaratory Ruling and Order, including the definition of an auto-dialer, the any reasonable manner approach to revocation of consent, and the one-call exemption for reassigned numbers.

The appellate court’s opinion set aside the FCC’s explanation of which devices qualify as an ATDS, as well as its understanding of when a caller violates the Act by calling a wireless number previously held by a consenting party but reassigned to a person who has not given consent.

The appellate court, however, sustained the Commission’s ruling that party can revoke consent through any reasonable means by clearly expressing a desire to receive no further calls or texts.

“ACA International appreciates the court’s thoughtful review of arguments made on behalf of industry and government, and its ruling in favor of sound legal principles that support legitimate, law-abiding businesses,” said Rick Perr, ACA International’s president. “While it is premature to assess the total effect this ruling will have on businesses and legal practitioners, the appellate court’s opinion in ACA Int’l is decidedly one of the most significant impacting the TCPA and the TCPA rules going forward.”

Notably, the D.C. Circuit Court wrote, “We set aside, however, the Commission’s effort to clarify the types of calling equipment that fall within the TCPA’s restrictions. The Commission’s understanding would appear to subject ordinary calls from any conventional smartphone to the Act’s coverage, an unreasonably expansive interpretation of the statute. We also vacate the agency’s approach to calls made to a phone number previously assigned to a person who had given consent but since reassigned to another (nonconsenting) person. The Commission concluded that calls in that situation violate the TCPA, apart from a one-call safe harbor, regardless of whether the caller has any awareness of the reassignment. We determine that the agency’s one-call safe harbor, at least as defended in the order, is arbitrary and capricious.”

“ACA is gratified by the court’s unanimous decision granting in part ACA’s petition for review and setting aside, in part, the FCC’s 2015 TCPA Order that had significantly expanded the scope of the TCPA and made it more challenging for companies to comply with the TCPA’s provisions,” said ACA International’s Corporate Counsel, Karen Scheibe Eliason. “This decision affirms that consumer interests are best served when legitimate businesses are able to contact consumers to communicate information that they want, need or expect to receive rather than by outdated rules and regulations built for a world that no longer exists. And ACA is pleased to see that attempts to maintain unnecessary, unwarranted and unduly burdensome regulatory handcuffs on businesses have been thwarted.”

ACA filed the first petition for review within hours after the FCC issued the TCPA Order in July, 2015. ACA argued in its petition that the FCC’s exercise of regulatory authority expanded the scope and reach of the TCPA in a way that Congress never intended – leaving a law in place that hurts legitimate, law-abiding business. ACA’s appeal, as well as the subsequent appeals filed by nine other businesses and organizations, was later centralized in the D.C. Circuit by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.

ACA is currently digesting and analyzing the details of the appellate court’s decision in ACA Int’l, and will provide more thorough coverage in future association publications.

In addition, ACA has scheduled a free comprehensive seminar on Monday, March 19, 2018 for ACA members only to provide an in-depth analysis of the ACA Int’l decision, and to discuss the implication the decision has for the credit and collection industry.

For more information about this case, click here.

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