IRVINE, CALIF.—Womble Bond Dickinson spoke with Law360 about two key breaking news stories in the telecom litigation sector—an FCC ruling regarding automatic blocking of certain robocalls and a Fourth Circuit TCPA decision allowing a $61 million judgment to stand.
The FCC ruling allows carriers to automatically block suspicious robocalls, rather than waiting for customer feedback. Some businesses, such as healthcare providers and debt collectors, expressed concern that legitimate automated calls could be blocked. But Betpera said he believes most carriers will focus on stopping robocalls that are clearly illegal, at least initially.
“It would make sense for carriers to approach that in a measured fashion, starting with that low-hanging fruit. It’s one of those left-to-be-seen things because the FCC’s ruling is so open-ended,” Betpera tells Law360.
However, he said there could be confusion in how the ruling is applied to different types of callers, because the FCC was vague about specific benchmarks for what types of call should be blocked.
“It’s a bit of a black box when you talk about how each carrier or each third party that the carriers work with are going to do this,” he said. “There’s a lack of standardization as well as transparency.”
And while the broad nature of the ruling could signal lawsuits from companies whose legitimate automated calls are blocked, Betpera tells Law360 “that the climate right now is very anti-robocall. It’s going to take someone who’s rather intrepid to be the first one to stand up and challenge the legality [of the rule].”
Also, click here to read “FCC’s New “Call Blocking by Default” Rules Could Create Unintended Consequences for American Businesses” , a Womble Bond Dickinson client alert written by Betpera and David Carter.
In addition, Betpera spoke to Law360 about the Fourth Circuit’s rejection of the Dish Network’s challenge to a $61 million TCPA jury verdict against the company. The class action seeks to hold Dish accountable for telemarketing calls made by an authorized Dish dealer to callers on the Do Not Call registry.
Experts say the Fourth Circuit ruling should be a warning to companies to ensure that third-party contractors acting on their behalf are complying with TCPA regulations.
In this case, Dish and contractor Satellite Systems Network (SSN) had a contract stating that Dish was not responsible for overseeing the third party’s actions. But the court ruled that a company cannot skirt its legal responsibilities “by simply contracting out of them.”
“What the Fourth Circuit and lower court did was say that despite the disclaimer in the contract between Dish and SSN that this isn't agency, we’re allowed to peel back the layers and examine the ongoing relationship between the parties based on execution and not just the words in the four corners of the contract,” Betpera tells Law360.
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