District Court Gives Narrow, Reasonable Scope to TCPA
In March of this year, we told you that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in ACA Int’l. v. FCC, wherein the court set aside two FCC interpretations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA. Specifically, the court ruled that the FCC’s interpretation as to what constitutes an autodialer under the TCPA was unreasonably expansive, and that the FCC’s treatment of reassigned numbers was also overly broad.
On May 22, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, issued a decision further restricting the scope of the TCPA. By way of reminder, the Congress passed the TCPA in 1991 in an effort to curb robo calls. The case involved calls made by a debt collector to a former Comcast customer. She sued, claiming that the calls were impermissible under the TCPA. An essential aspect of the TCPA claim at issue was that the call must be made through the use of an “automatic telephone dialing system”, or ATDS, as defined in the statute.
The defendant argued that there was no evidence that the calls were made using an ATDS. Under the explicit terms of the TCPA, an ATDS must use a random or sequential number generator. The plaintiff argued that the system qualified as an ATDS unless the agents involved manually dialed the ten digit phone number each time they made a call. The District Court rejected the plaintiff’s sweeping interpretation of the statute and agreed with the defendant by relying on the DC Circuit’s interpretation of the TCPA as set forth in ACA Int’l v. FCC. The District Court quite reasonably held that the focus of the TCPA is on whether the system can automatically dial a phone number, rather than on whether it makes it easier for a person to dial the number.