On May 31, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington granted a plaintiff’s motion for class certification in an action alleging a defendant debt collector placed unsolicited calls to borrowers’ cell phones when attempting to collect federal student loan debt. The plaintiff contended that the defendant violated the TCPA by calling her up to seven times a day without her consent using an automatic telephone dialing system (autodialer) and prerecorded calls or artificial voice calls. According to the plaintiff, in 2019, the defendant obtained her cell phone number through skip-tracing services performed by one of its vendors. The defendant allegedly had access to a call recording from a 2017 conversation between a Department of Education contractor and the plaintiff during which the plaintiff provided her phone number. The defendant, however, allegedly was not aware of the recording nor did it seek to access the file until after the plaintiff filed suit. The defendant also supposedly received a file from the contractor containing the plaintiff’s number but not until after it already acquired the number from the skip-tracing vendor. The defendant denied that it used an autodialer or made prerecorded calls or artificial voice calls. The defendant also claimed that “because it had constructive access to the recording of plaintiff’s 2017 phone conversation with [the contractor] and received the [] file with plaintiff’s number, it had plaintiff’s prior express consent to receiving calls.”

The court certified the class, ruling that the question of whether access to the files in question was sufficient to confer consent under the TCPA is “a closer legal question, but not one that overcomes predominance at this stage.” According to the court, “the issue of whether defendant can show that its right of access to [the contractor’s] files constituted prior express consent is one that is currently capable of classwide resolution. Accordingly, while the affirmative defenses defendant presses will no doubt be important to the outcome of the litigation, they presently do not undercut the central common issues in this case.”