U.S. Supreme Court Rules on Narrow Definition of Autodialer under TCPA

April 2, 2021

As long expected, the United States Supreme Court has finally issued an opinion clarifying the definition of automated telephone dialing system (“autodialer” or “ATDS”) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court rejected the more expansive definitions promoted by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) over the years and adopted a narrow definition much more in line with the actual text of the statute. Specifically, the Court held the following:

To qualify as an “automatic telephone dialing system,” a device must have the capacity either to store a telephone number using a random or sequential generator or to produce a telephone number using a random or sequential number generator.

Writing for the Court, Justice Sotomayor stated that while it might be true that the statute is “senescent” (or in other words out of date), it is was not the Court’s role to update the statute by departing from the plain meaning of its language. Rather, the Court stressed that such a task must fall to Congress.

This decision is great news for any company facing potential TCPA liability. However, some risk still remains under the TCPA. Even with this more narrowed definition, some dialing systems still might expose calling parties to liability. Moreover, the TCPA’s restrictions regarding both the use of artificial (or pre-recorded) voices and adherence to the national Do-Not-Call list remain in place.

The full text of the opinion is linked for review. However, if you have any specific questions regarding this ruling and what it might mean for pending litigation or ongoing TCPA compliance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Eckert Seamans’ TCPA team.

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Kevin P. Allen

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Robert J. Gastner

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Charles A. Zdebski

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