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Recent Developments In The Telephone Consumer Protection Act

In April of 2021, the United States Supreme Court accepted a narrow definition of an autodialer in Facebook Inc. v. Duguid, which essentially limits the reach of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). Under the TCPA, an autodialer is defined as equipment that has the capacity to store or produce telephone numbers to be called by use of a random or sequential number generator and to dial such numbers.

In this recent court decision, the Supreme Court ruled on what qualified as an automatic telephone dialing system as that phrase is used in the TCPA. The Supreme Court essentially decided that to qualify as an automatic telephone dialing system, the device must have the capacity to store or produce a telephone number using a random or sequential number generator.

What Does The TCPA Do?

The TCPA bans certain telemarketing, solicitor, and debt collector practices. One of the bans included in the TCPA includes restrictions on making calls with an automatic telephone dialing system. Since the TCPA law was enacted in 1991, it likely did not contemplate some modern advancements in telephonic technology.

In the case before the Supreme Court, the issue pertained to text messages that were sent by Facebook to a non-Facebook user. The message was attempting to notify the non-Facebook user that someone had attempted access to the Facebook account associated with his telephone number.

When the non-Facebook user was not able to stop the notifications, he brought a class action lawsuit against Facebook for violations under the TCPA. The complaint was dismissed at the trial level, and the non-Facebook user then appealed to the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit determined that the autodialer system included any equipment with the capacity to store phone numbers on a list, rather than just phone numbers on that equipment that randomly or sequentially generates.

The Supreme Court disagreed with the Ninth Circuit's broad definition and decided to follow other Circuit Courts' decisions where they applied narrower definitions for an autodialer system.

What Does The U.S. Supreme Court Decision Mean For State Applications Of The Law?

So, what does this new precedent mean? The Supreme Court's ruling significantly limits what devices and calls are subject to the TCPA restrictions. If a device does not have the capacity to either sore or produce a telephone number by using a random or sequential number generator, it will not be subject to the law's restrictions on the use of an autodialer system. However, one thing the Supreme Court did not decide is whether a system’s mere capacity is sufficient to use the random or sequential number generator. This now leaves open the question to be sorted out by the lower courts.

Devices that would most squarely fit within the definition of an autodialer by the Supreme Court are ones that produce or dial numbers randomly or sequentially. The issue with this is that very few modern dialers used commercially would meet this definition today. Devices that would meet the Supreme Court's decision are archaic, rapid-fire dialers. However, this narrow definition is not the end all be all. This new interpretation may cause legislative action by Congress or other court rulings to further define autodialer systems and devices. Additionally, state-level agencies may create regulations that may have different standards for what is or isn’t an autodialer. A State may enact its own laws and decide not to follow the Supreme Court's narrow definition.

If you believe you have a claim resulting from a TCPA violation and you want to determine whether the Supreme Court’s decision and any other case rulings will affect your ability to seek compensation, contact a lawyer to discuss your case.

How Do You Recover Damages If Your TCPA Rights Are Violated?

For more information about developments in TCPA law, including what to do if someone violated your rights under TCPA, you should speak with a consumer protection attorney. Law Office of Simon Goldenberg is focused on protecting consumers' rights. We can help you seek and obtain the remedies that you deserve. For a consultation, call (888) 301-0584 or contact us online today.