The "primary user" of a cell phone line has standing to sue under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), even when another party is the actual subscriber to the service, a federal court in Florida has ruled. The case opens the door for additional claims by plaintiffs who receive telephone calls on cell phone lines paid for by their employers or some other party.

In Soulliere v. Central Florida Investments, the plaintiff alleged that he received unwanted telephone calls on a cell phone from a creditor seeking to collect payments due on his resort timeshare account. The defendants moved for summary judgment on the ground that the plaintiff's employer was the actual subscriber of the cell phone service and paid the cell phone bill. Therefore, the defendants argued, the plaintiff was not the "called party" under the TCPA and lacked standing to sue.

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida rejected this argument, ruling that a person who is a "primary user" of a cell phone line has standing to sue under the TCPA regardless of who is the subscriber or pays for the service.

"Regardless of whether Plaintiff's employer [. . .] is the subscriber in that it owns Plaintiff's cell phone number and pays the bill, Plaintiff is not precluded from having standing as it is not disputed that he was the primary or regular user" of the cell phone, the court held.

The court ruled that standing to bring claims under the TCPA should be construed broadly to effectuate the statute's purpose to "protect users of telephones from nuisance calls and from unwanted invasions of their privacy."

Ballard Spahr’s Consumer Financial Services Group regularly counsel clients on TCPA compliance. The firm’s Real Estate Resort and Hotel Group is nationally recognized for its in-depth legal, industry, and market knowledge of vacation ownership plans and timeshare resorts. The group advises timeshare and resort clients on regulatory compliance throughout the United States.

The firm has also created a TCPA Task Force to assist clients in navigating the complex and challenging issues that arise under the TCPA. The task force, which comprises regulatory attorneys and litigators, counsels on avoiding TCPA liability, including reviewing policies and practices, and helps to design mobile text message and prerecorded and autodialed call campaigns. It also assists clients in handling scrutiny from regulators, including preparing for examinations, responding to investigations, and defending against enforcement actions. In addition, task force members defend clients against TCPA class or individual actions.

For more information, please contact Mark J. Furletti at 215.864.8138 or in the CFS Group, or Nicole C. Evans at 801.531.3058 or in the Resort and Hotel Group.

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