TCPA Autodialer Dispute
On Wednesday a Washington federal court rejected a $6 million deal to resolve a class action suit due to a lack of “clarity” over the scope of an automated telephone dialing system (ATDS). In the suit, referral service A Place For Mom Inc. is accused of violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by placing illegal robocalls to consumers via an autodialer.
The judge rejected the terms of the settlement due to the disputed definition of an autodialer. The ruling comes in the wake of conflicting federal rulings including the D.C. Circuit’s ruling in March 2018 in the case of ACA International v. FCC, which struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) broad definition, and the Ninth Circuit’s September decision in the case of Marks v. Crunch San Diego – which supported a broad definition.
“The court declines to define a class using a disputed term of art,” stated court clerk William M. McCool, who claimed to be following the ruling judge’s orders. “The proposed class definition, which relies solely on plaintiff’s characterization of an ATDS, rather than an ascertainable fact, lacks the clarity required to determine who is in the class.”
Additionally, regarding the class, the court noted that the proposed deal only sets aside funds for class members who fill out a claim for, incentivizing to minimize the number of consumers who opt in and giving those who submit claims greater funds. Further, lead plaintiff Kevin Pine failed to provide an estimate of how attorney fees and expenses would affect the settlement funds for class members, meaning the court could not determine if the deal was in the best interest of class members.
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