The U.S. Supreme Court released its eagerly anticipated decision in Facebook Inc. v. Duguid yesterday, narrowly construing the definition of an automatic telephone dialing system, or autodialer, under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and resolving the uncertainty that had led to a long-standing split in the circuit courts.
Autodialer Definition and Interpretations
A circuit split regarding how broadly to define the types of automated technology regulated under the TCPA led to this case.
Under the TCPA, autodialers are defined as “equipment which has the capacity to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and to dial such numbers.”
The Seventh, Eleventh, and Third Circuits have narrowly interpreted this definition, while the Ninth and Second Circuits have interpreted an autodialer more broadly.
Interpretation in Facebook
At issue in Facebook was the Ninth Circuit’s broad interpretation that an autodialer includes any equipment that has the capacity to store and automatically dial numbers, even if the numbers have not been generated by a random or sequential number generator. In other words, the Ninth Circuit held that an autodialer need only have the capacity to “store numbers to be called” and “to dial such numbers automatically.”
The Supreme Court flatly rejected this interpretation in reversing the Ninth Circuit, noting that “expanding the definition of an autodialer to…