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Court Holds that Direct Dropped Voicemails are Covered by the TCPA

Earlier this week, a Federal Judge in Michigan, ruled that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) covers so-called “direct drop” voicemail. The case is Karen Sanders v. Duck O’Neal, Inc., Case No. 1:17-cv-335, 2018 WL 3453967 (W.D. Mich. July 16, 2018). This opinion is the first known opinion to address this technology.

The case involved VoApp’s DirectDrop voicemail product. This product allows a pre-recorded message to be directly “dropped” or delivered to a consumer’s voicemail without the consumer’s telephone ringing or showing a missed call. VoApp and similar vendors have argued that this technology is not governed by the TCPA. The Judge ruled that the TCPA does apply, finding that “[c]ourts have consistently held that voicemail messages are subject to the same TCPA restrictions as traditional calls.”

The Judge wrote as follows:

“As a remedial statute, the Court construes the TCPA broadly in favor of Saunders. The statute itself casts a broad net—it regulates any call, and a “call” includes communication, or an attempt to communicate, via telephone. Both the FCC and the courts have recognized that the scope of the TCPA naturally evolves in parallel with telecommunications technology as it evolves, e.g., with the advent of text messages and email-to-text messages or, as we have here, new technology to get into a consumer’s voicemail box directly. The TCPA was enacted in 1991; the equivalent act at that time could be considered a party recording a message directly on an answering machine’s cassette tape without ever calling the number—an infeasible technological feat absent physical access to a consumer’s answering machine.”

Note that this ruling does not hold that this technology is unlawful under the TCPA, only that the use of this technology must comply with the TCPA. Further, this order is just one ruling on this matter, and there is likely to be a contrary ruling in the future. Nevertheless, if your Credit Union uses a direct drop service to collect on consumer accounts, the Credit Union should determine if such service is being used in compliance with the TCPA.