November 21, 2019

Autodialer Definition is Too Broad, Says Trade Organizations

Several trade associations are backing Facebook, arguing that the courts have broadened the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s (TCPA’s) autodialer definition too far, and they believe the Supreme Court should step in.

Examining the TCPA’s Autodialer Definition

Two associations, Credit Union National Association Inc. and ACA International Inc., believe that the Ninth Circuit overstepped when it upheld a suit accusing Facebook of sending text messages in violation of the TCPA. The organizations believe that the TCPA’s definition of an autodialer was stretched to a point that could hinder freedom of speech.

“What Congress prohibited was the use of a machine to dial random or sequential numbers. Indiscriminate dialing is not the same thing as purposeful contact with specific consumers,” stated ACA International.

Further, Credit Union National added that the courts have been stretching the law beyond Congress’ intent. “Credit unions seeking to comply with the TCPA confront a fractured and confusing legal landscape where any misstep — such as inadvertently calling a wrong number, misapplying one of the many content-based exemptions, or using modern telephone systems — could lead to strict liability for uncapped statutory damages.”

In addition to these associations, the Chamber of Commerce, Midland Credit, and the Retail Litigation Center also filed briefs supporting Facebook and the sentiments of the two associations regarding the TCPA’s autodialer definition. A common issue in the case is the First Amendment; specifically, the argument that the government backing the debt exemption to the statute creates a content-based restriction on freedom of speech.

TCPA Clarification

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