Slowly but surely, the U.S. Courts of Appeal increasingly agree on how to interpret the definition of “automatic telephone dialing system” in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. On February 19, 2020, a unanimous Seventh Circuit panel refused to revise a putative class action in Gadelhak v. AT&T Services, Inc. after concluding that the dialing system used by AT&T did not qualify as an autodialer. Like the Eleventh Circuit in Glasser v. Hilton Grand Vacations Company, LLC and Third Circuit in Dominguez v. Yahoo, Inc., the Seventh Circuit held that an “autodialer” must use “a random or sequential number generator” to either store or produce numbers. Because the system used by AT&T simply pulled numbers from a database, the court found that the system was not an autodialer and the texts did not violate the TCPA.
On January 27, 2020, an Eleventh Circuit panel released a landmark ruling in Glasser v. Hilton Grand Vacations Company, LLC. The key issue in the case was how to interpret ambiguous language in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s definition of “automatic telephone dialing system”. In recent years, imprecise statutory phrasing and the Federal Communication Commission’s liberal reading of the legislative history empowered plaintiffs to assert TCPA claims based on a wide array of calling systems. The Eleventh Circuit panel’s decision in Glasser rejects that trend, joins the D.C. Circuit in adopting a much narrower view of the TCPA’s scope, and establishes a clear circuit split with the Ninth Circuit.
Now that the dust has settled from the D.C. Circuit’s highly anticipated Telephone Consumer Protection Act decision in ACA International, et al, v. FCC, the Federal Communications Commission is going back to the drawing board in a new Public Notice that seeks comment on foundational TCPA issues.
The Federal Communications Commission has proposed a $2.96 million forfeiture against Travel Club Marketing, Inc. for apparent violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and related FCC rules regarding the delivery of prerecorded messages, as well as its Caller ID rules. This enforcement action serves as a reminder to companies placing autodialed calls or delivering prerecorded messages to ensure that such calls and messages comply with federal and state laws. Otherwise, they risk not only class action litigation, but also potential regulatory enforcement fines that are imposed on a per-call basis.
Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House that would modernize the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and enable businesses to make additional informational calls to wireless telephone numbers. As currently drafted, however, the bill would retain many of the existing restrictions on placing telemarketing calls to wireless telephones.