The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is legislation passed by Congress in 1991 and it is the primary law governing telephone solicitations. Basically, it regulates all those annoying telemarketing calls, faxes, and texts that consumers experience daily.
The concept of an Automatic Telephone Dialing System (ATDS) is something that has been brought into question in many lawsuits. Never clearly defined, ATDSs have been a source of confusion for many legal minds which has led to varying results in countless settlements.
This article will take a closer look at the definition of the ATDS in the hopes that it might clear up some of the questions consumers have.
What is an Autodialer?
The TCPA defines an autodialer as “equipment that has the capacity to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator to dial numbers”. Although this seems clear enough, advancements in technology have surpassed this 30-year-old rule causing us to question which devices qualify.
The FCC, DC Circuit and Ninth Circuit Weigh in on the Matter
In 2015, the FCC attempted to clarify things by expanding the definition of an ATDS to include devices with “the capacity to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator, and to dial such numbers”.
Then in 2018, in the ACA International vs. FCC lawsuit, the ACA rejected this updated definition saying it was beyond the scope of Congressional intent. Furthermore, they noted that under this definition, any smartphone could be considered an ATDS.
They also found the new order to be contradictory in that the definition applied to devices with the capability of generating random numbers to dial but also suggested these devices would need only to dial from a set list of numbers in order to be considered an ATDS.
Later in the year, in Marks vs. Crunch San Diego, LLC, the Ninth Circuit also found the FCC’s new definition to be ambiguous and also looked at the Congressional intent behind the TCPA specifically regarding its intention to ‘regulate devices making automated calls’.
In the Marks case, the ATDS definition was expanded to include a device that ‘has the capacity to (1) store numbers to be called or (2) to produce numbers to be called using a random or sequential number generator.” Although the language used is similar to the TCPA’s, it include devices that can not only call numbers that were randomly generated, but automatically dial stored numbers as well.
Other Cases Question the ATDS Definition
These were not the only examples of lawsuits that questioned the definition of the ATDS. Other cases questioned devices’ capacity to store and produce numbers relevant to it being considered an ATDS specifically examining the wording regarding the device’s ‘capacity…to store or produce numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator.”
The matter of a device’s capacity continues to be brought into question in regard to whether or not it can be considered an ATDS.
For instance, is some cases, texting devices have been questioned because they lack the capacity to generate numbers to be called without human intervention.
In other cases, it has been argued that a device should not be considered an ATDS because it cannot generate numbers sequentially or at random.
The definition of an ATDS has also been brought into question regarding its capacity to dial automatically.
One case brought before the Central District of California argued a device was not an ATDS because it required an agent to click a dialogue box to initiate calling.
Another case argued a device should not be considered an ATDS because the plaintiff failed to show proof that it could randomly or sequentially dial or text.
Finding Legal Help to Answer Your ATDS questions
Currently we are waiting for the FCC to provide a more concise definition of what an ATDS is. In the meantime, if you have any questions, consider consulting a reliable attorney.
If you are looking for legal help in the state of Louisiana, call Samuel Ford of Alexander Shunnarah Personal Injury Attorneys. With years of experience in the field of consumer law, he will help you figure out what claims you may have.
Don’t let confusion get in the way of your rights. Call the SVHC team to get the help you need.