In a recent ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit revived a claim against debt collector under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), finding that the recipient of the call never expressly consented to the calls.

The plaintiff, Albert Nigro, called the power company to discontinue service at the home of his recently deceased mother-in-law, Joan Thomas.  As required by the power company, Nigro provided his own telephone number.  Thereafter, the power company hired a third party, Mercantile Adjustment Bureaus (“MAB”) to collect on Thomas’ outstanding debt to the power company.  In connection with those collection efforts, MAB called Nigro. 

Nigro subsequently filed suit against MAB alleging MAB’s calls to Nigro violated the TCPA.  The district court granted MAB’s motion for summary judgment holding that MAB was not liable under the TCPA because Nigro had consented to the calls by providing his number to the power company.

On appeal to the Second Circuit, the Court reversed the district court’s granting of summary judgment and stated that Nigro “plainly did not consent” to the calls.  The Court went on to say that Nigro was apparently not event aware of the debt to the power company, was not responsible for same, and did not provide his telephone number in connection with the transaction that resulted in the debt.  Specifically, the Court cited a 2008 Federal Communications Commissions (“FCC”) ruling finding that Nigro did not consent because his number was not “provided during the transaction that resulted in the debt owed.”

Notably, the FCC also filed a brief in the Second Circuit asking the Court to reverse to district court’s ruling.  In their brief, the FCC similarly argued that Nigro’s provision of his cell phone number to the power company did not qualify as consent to receive autodialed or prerecorded debt collection calls to that number.

As highlighted by this case, often one of the most difficult issues to navigate when considering TCPA compliance is the issue of consent and how it was obtained.

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Photo of Jason C. Gavejian Jason C. Gavejian

Jason C. Gavejian is a Principal in the Morristown, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. and a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US) with the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

As a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US), Mr. Gavejian focuses on the matrix…

Jason C. Gavejian is a Principal in the Morristown, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. and a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US) with the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

As a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US), Mr. Gavejian focuses on the matrix of laws governing privacy, security, and management of data. Mr. Gavejian is Co-Editor of, and a regular contributor to, the firm’s Workplace Privacy, Data Management & Security Report blog.

Mr. Gavejian’s work in the area of privacy and data security includes counseling international, national, and regional companies on the vast array of privacy and security mandates, preventive measures, policies, procedures, and best practices. This includes, but is not limited to, the privacy and security requirements under state, federal, and international law (e.g., HIPAA/HITECH, GDPR, California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), FTC Act, ECPA, SCA, GLBA etc.). Mr. Gavejian helps companies in all industries to assess information risk and security as part of the development and implementation of comprehensive data security safeguards including written information security programs (WISP). Additionally, Mr. Gavejian assists companies in analyzing issues related to: electronic communications, social media, electronic signatures (ESIGN/UETA), monitoring and recording (GPS, video, audio, etc.), biometrics, and bring your own device (BYOD) and company owned personally enabled device (COPE) programs, including policies and procedures to address same. He regularly advises clients on compliance issues under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and has represented clients in suits, including class actions, brought in various jurisdictions throughout the country under the TCPA.

Mr. Gavejian represents companies with respect to inquiries from the HHS/OCR, state attorneys general, and other agencies alleging wrongful disclosure of personal/protected information. Mr. Gavejian negotiates vendor agreements and other data privacy and security agreements, including business associate agreements. His work in the area of privacy and data security includes counseling and coaching clients through the process of investigating and responding to breaches of the personally identifiable information (PII) or protected health information (PHI) they maintain about consumers, customers, employees, patients, and others, while also assisting clients in implementing policies, practices, and procedures to prevent future data incidents.

Mr. Gavejian represents management exclusively in all aspects of employment litigation, including restrictive covenants, class-actions, harassment, retaliation, discrimination, and wage and hour claims in both federal and state courts. Mr. Gavejian regularly appears before administrative agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, and the New Jersey Department of Labor. Mr. Gavejian’s practice also focuses on advising/counseling employers regarding daily workplace issues.

Mr. Gavejian’s litigation experience, coupled with his privacy practice, provides him with a unique view of many workplace issues and the impact privacy, data security, and social media may play in actual or threatened lawsuits.

Mr. Gavejian regularly provides training to both executives and employees and regularly speaks on current privacy, data security, monitoring, recording, BYOD/COPE, biometrics (BIPA), social media, TCPA, and information management issues. His views on these topics have been discussed in multiple publications, including the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle (SFGATE), National Law Review, Bloomberg BNA, Inc.com, @Law Magazine, Risk and Insurance Magazine, LXBN TV, Business Insurance Magazine, and HR.BLR.com.

Mr. Gavejian is the Co-Chair of Jackson Lewis’ Hispanic Attorney Resource Group, a group committed to increasing the firm’s visibility among Hispanic-American and other minority attorneys, as well as mentoring the firm’s attorneys to assist in their training and development. Mr. Gavejian also previously served on the National Leadership Committee of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) and regularly volunteers his time for pro bono matters.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, Mr. Gavejian served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Richard J. Donohue on the Superior Court of New Jersey, Bergen County.