Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

The Equifax and Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandals, coupled with the proliferation of state privacy and security laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)—as well as proposed laws in Washington and Massachusetts—have increased demand for a comprehensive national privacy law.  Last week, the Senate announced plans to hold hearings to discuss a proposed privacy law.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just released its report recommending that Congress develop comprehensive privacy legislation to enhance consumer protections. 
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The U.S. Supreme Court’s grant this week of the petition for certiorari in a case involving the Telephone Communication Protection Act (TCPA) prohibition on unsolicited fax advertisements could have significant implications for the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) anticipated ruling on what constitutes an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) under the TCPA.

The petitioner in PDR Network v. Carlton & Harris Chiropractic sent a fax in 2013 to a West Virginia chiropractor offering a free copy of the Physicians’ Desk Reference. The chiropractor declined the offer and sued PDR in West Virginia federal court, alleging that PDR had violated the TCPA by sending it an unsolicited fax advertisement. PDR moved to dismiss, arguing that the fax was not an “unsolicited advertisement” because it offered the desk reference for free rather than for purchase. The chiropractor disagreed, arguing that the fax was an “unsolicited advertisement” because a 2006 FCC rule interpreted the term to include “facsimile messages that promote goods or services even at no cost.”
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The decision last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on petitions seeking review of the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) represents a partial victory for the industry.

In the decision, the D.C. Circuit reversed the FCC’s guidance on the definition