Facebook Loses Robocall Appeal

By George Khoury, Esq. on June 21, 2019

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently revived the wacky robocall class action case against Facebook that was thrown out in late 2017 by the lower federal district court.

Apparently, Facebook found the one person in the world who wasn’t on Facebook and decided to send him text message alerts that his Facebook account had been compromised. Notably, it's alleged that the system that repeatedly contacted the plaintiff was automated, and even after the plaintiff clearly notified Facebook to stop contacting him, it persisted. Disagreeing with the district court's rationale, the Ninth Circuit revived the case, allowing it to move forward.

Robocall Classes

The class action lawsuit is seeking to represent two distinct groups, known as classes:

  • Everyone who is not a Facebook member and received the unwanted text messages or robocalls
  • Everyone who, after receiving an unwanted text or call from Facebook, clearly asked Facebook to stop, yet still received messages

Individual class members may even be entitled to payments if the case is successful, or reaches a settlement. Unwanted robocalls and text messages can violate federal law and entitle the recipient to $500 in damages per occurrence.

Facebook's lawyers argued that the messages containing warnings of a potential hack or compromised account should qualify under an exception for emergency situations where the use of robocalls is acceptable. But on appeal, this argument was struck down, as was a provision in the TCPA that exempted government debt collection efforts from the prohibition on robocalls.

Consumer Action

If you're receiving robocalls and you've done your best to try to stop them, you may want to consider bringing your own lawsuit against these robocalling companies. Unfortunately, one frequent problem is the fact that these calls come from unknown sources and numbers.

It is hoped that in the near future our telephone providers will be stepping in to help block unwanted robocalls and telemarketers. Unfortunately, commentators have been generally critical of the FCC's plan -- or, perhaps more accurately, the lack of one.

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