In a widely anticipated ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that just because a business has calling technology that has the capacity to store and dial multiple numbers – such as a cell phone — does not automatically subject that business to Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) liability for calls (and texts) to consumers that otherwise lack consent.
Beyond other aspects of what constitutes a robo-call, this ruling is likely to limit the number of class actions brought against businesses under TCPA. Still, for businesses required to comply with consumer protection laws, obtaining and retaining evidence of consumer consent for calls and texts remains the primary business action to limit risk. Where businesses use vendors to administer call campaigns, we recommend discussing with vendors the impact this decision may have on campaign practices. As always, contacting experienced counsel to investigate whether creative steps can be taken to incorporate aspects of today’s ruling into your relationships is a wise step to better protect your business.
In an 8-0 opinion, with Justice Alito concurring in the judgment for unanimity, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed and remanded the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid, et al. Slip Op. No. 19-511, 592 U. S. ___ (2021). In the context of consumer protections ensconced in the TCPA, the Ninth Circuit held that any company maintaining a database that stored consumer phone numbers that could also be programmed to automatically call the numbers stored therein, were operators of “automatic telephone dialing systems” (“ATDS”). Among other things, the TCPA prohibits unsolicited telemarketing and other calls and text messages from users of an ATDS. The Ninth Circuit’s conclusion created a rift. The TCPA’s definition of what constitutes an ATDS was more narrow than the Ninth Circuit’s interpretation. As Facebook pointed out to the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit’s interpretation not only appeared to ignore the TCPA’s complete definition of what constitutes an ATDS – it made ubiquitous forms of technology previously untouched by the TCPA open to that liability. Continue Reading