1. Have the GOP’s Hopes for Enacting the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act Been Dashed? – Passed in March 2017 by the U.S. House of Representatives, the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017, H.R. 985, has stalled in the Senate. Among other things, the House bill would dictate the method by which to calculate attorneys’ fees in a class action and significantly limit recoverable attorneys’ fees to a “reasonable percentage of (1) any payments received by class members; and (2) the value of any equitable relief.” (H.R. 985, § 103) The bill also installs a stringent “ascertainability” rule that would likely result in more denials of class certification. On March 13, 2017, the House bill was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but the Committee has not taken any further actions to advance the bill. In the current political climate, there may be a tailwind for this legislative effort in 2018.
2. The FCC’s Progress and Speed in Resolving the Backlog of TCPA Petitions – Several petitions for declaratory ruling were filed with the FCC in late 2016 and 2017 requesting clarification on issues relating to the meaning of “prior express consent” under the TCPA. After soliciting and receiving comments from the public, those petitions are ripe for decision by the FCC. See In the Matter of Credit Union Nat’l Ass’n Petition for Declaratory Ruling, Dkt. No. 02-278 (filed Sept. 29, 2017) (requesting FCC to exempt from the TCPA all informational calls made by credit unions to cell phones where the wireless subscriber has an established business relationship with the credit union, or the called party is not charged for the call); In the Matter of Petition for Expedited Declaratory Ruling of Bebe Stores, Inc., Dkt. No. 02-278 (filed Nov. 18, 2016) (requesting retroactive waiver of TCPA’s “prior express written consent” requirement for robocalls for calls made by Bebe from October 16, 2013, to October 7, 2015). At least two petitions for declaratory ruling were filed by defendants in pending TCPA fax class actions last year, and those petitions also await decision from the FCC. Continue Reading