IRVINE, CALIF.—Two national media outlets recently quoted Womble Bond Dickinson attorney Artin Betpera regarding a Ninth Circuit decision to revive a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) lawsuit against social media giant Facebook.

Betpera spoke to both Law360 and Bloomberg Law about the June 13 decision in the Ninth Circuit. A three-judge panel overturned the dismissal of a complaint alleging Facebook had sent security notification texts to customers in violation of the TCPA.

In doing so, the panel struck down on Constitutional grounds an exemption to the TCPA that allows government-backed debt collectors to make autodialed calls. The Ninth Circuit judges ruled that this exemption violates the First Amendment’s free speech clause, but they rejected Facebook’s efforts to have the entire TCPA declared unconstitutional. This decision closely mirrors a recent Fourth Circuit ruling that struck down an exemption to the TCPA, but otherwise kept the TCPA intact.

Betpera tells Law360 that the ruling will result in the TCPA restricting more speech, not less. “Businesses that weren’t even party to the appeal, including collectors of student loans and other government-backed debt” will be among those adversely affected, he said.

In the Facebook case, the lower court previously dismissed the claim against Facebook, ruling the plaintiff had failed to show that the company had sent the texts via an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS).

But in reversing that decision, the panel looked to the Ninth Circuit’s broad definition of an ATDS established in the 2018 Marks v. Crunch case. Using that broad definition, the panel determined there were reasonable grounds for the case to continue.

Betpera tells Law360 that the June 13 ruling “preserved the status quo as much as possible….We saw this last year in the Ninth Circuit’s Marks v. Crunch opinion, in which the court broadly interpreted the statutory definition of ATDS to make sure the TCPA continued to regulate modern dialing technology.”

“Businesses that collect government-backed debts, including student loans, just got the rug pulled out from under them,” Betpera tells Bloomberg Law. “Those businesses—which for the past four years have been relying upon this exemption—are suddenly left naked to private TCPA lawsuits.”

Click here to read “9th Circ. Revives TCPA Suit Over Facebook Hack-Alert Texts” at Law360.

Also, click here to read “Robocall Law Debt Collector Carve-Out Nixed in Facebook Case” at Bloomberg Law

Artin Betpera

is a partner and trial lawyer with a national practice principally representing financial services companies in high stakes litigation in federal and state courts, involving both class and individual claims. He has developed a particular focus on Telephone Consumer Protection Act litigation, but has significant experience in traditional commercial litigation, and regularly appears on behalf of some of the country’s most significant banks and financial institutions. He also manages and supervises a litigation team serving the firm’s clients across the state of California.