NEWS23 March 2020

TCPA lawsuit against M/A/R/C Research rejected

Legal News North America

US – Market research company M/A/R/C Research has been found to not have breached the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by a US District court.

Court hammer_crop

It had been the subject of a junk fax lawsuit, which had worrying repercussions for the market research industry.

A federal court ruled in favour of M/A/R/C Research with significant details in its order that will benefit other researchers who might be faced with similar TCPA litigation.

A veterinary hospital had sued M/A/R/C Research for faxing it a research invitation that included a respondent incentive, which it claimed was a violation of the TCPA restrictions on sending an unsolicited ad by fax. The plaintiff also claimed that the fax illegally "converted" its office supplies by using up paper and toner, and so wanted the case to be pursued at the state level as well.

The court ruling was welcomed by the Insights Association (IA). Howard Fienberg, vice-president of advocacy for the IA said: “We applaud M/A/R/C Research for confronting in court such bogus trial lawyer schemes against bona fide research. It is much easier to just settle the case and let the plaintiff slink away to find another victim, so IA appreciates when researchers stand and fight.”

Merrill Dubrow, CEO of M/A/R/C Research, added: “If this happens to you, if you get sued for conducting real research, don’t settle right away. On the deterrence side, if this court decision can prevent even one more insights company from being targeted, one more company having to burn through time and resources defending themselves, it will have all been worth it.”

The US District Court of Eastern Michigan rejected the plaintiff’s claims against M/A/R/C Research saying: “Is a facsimile transmission in the form of an opinion survey, seeking information but offering for sale no product, service, or anything else, an ‘advertisement’ the purveying of which is prohibited by federal law? The court, in agreement with Defendant, says no. Secondarily, what if the fax also contains an offer of nominal compensation (e.g., with a $25 gift card)? Does the survey become an advertisement? Again, no. Thirdly, does Michigan law recognise a claim for conversion of property based upon the unsolicited use of a sheet of paper and a small amount of printer toner to produce the fax image? This court says ‘we do not know', and therefore declines to exercise jurisdiction in the  absence of a federal claim.”