Ninth Circuit Expands the Definition of an ATDS

The very first clause in the TCPA is the definition of an Automatic Telephone Dialing System, which the statute defines as “equipment which has the capacity—(A) to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and (B) to dial such numbers.” 47 USC 227(a)(1). Notwithstanding this limited definition, the Ninth Circuit today ruled in Marks v. Crunch San Diego, LLC that an ATDS means more than what the statute says. It did so by reordering the aforementioned definition’s words and replacing a conjunctive “and” with a disjunctive “or,” and holding that the term ATDS actually “means equipment which has the capacity—(1) to store numbers to be called or (2) to produce numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator—and to dial such numbers automatically (even if the system must be turned on or triggered by a person).” (emphasis added). By separating and reordering these clauses to de-couple the “random or sequential number generator” requirement from the storage requirement, the Ninth Circuit appears to have re-introduced (at least in the Ninth Circuit, and at least for now) the same over breadth and uncertainty that the D.C. Circuit appeared to rectify with its decision in ACA International. Continue reading   »

Another District Court Rejects FCC Prior Orders on ATDS in Light of ACA International

One of the central issues before the D.C. Circuit in ACA International v. FCC was whether the FCC’s vague and expansive definition of an ATDS would withstand judicial scrutiny. It did not, and as we explained at the time the decision was issued, the D.C. Circuit set aside not only the portion of the FCC’s July 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order pertaining to ATDS, but also the FCC’s prior rulings dating back to 2003. Following ACA International, and while the FCC considers how to amend its now-invalidated prior rulings, the plaintiffs’ bar has attempted to narrow the reach of ACA International, arguing that the D.C. Circuit set aside only the 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order, and that the validity of the FCC’s prior rulings was not under review. Just as the D.C. Circuit rejected this argument, district courts across the country continue to reject this argument, most recently a federal district court in the Central District of California. Continue reading   »

Allegations of Equipment’s Potential Functionalities Not Sufficient to Survive Motion to Dismiss after ACA Int’l

On July 12, 2018, the Northern District of Ohio dismissed a complaint that failed to “allege any facts that [the defendant] uses a system that has the ability to store or produce telephone numbers to be called using a random or sequential number generator.” Lord v. Kisling, Nestico & Redick, LLC, No. 1:17-CV-01739, 2018 WL 3391941, at *3 (N.D. Ohio July 12, 2018). It is the latest court to follow the lead of the D.C. Circuit’s ruling in ACA Int’l v. FCC, 885 F.3d 687, 692 (D.C. Cir. 2018), that vacated the FCC’s interpretation of automatic telephone dialing systems (“ATDS”). Continue reading   »

Following ACA Int’l, Third Circuit Holds that Yahoo!’s Email-to-Text System is not an ATDS

The Third Circuit recently affirmed the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s finding that Yahoo!’s email-to-text alert system does not qualify as an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”). (Our previous discussions of this case are here, here, and here.) Following the District of Columbia Circuit’s decision in ACA Int’l v. FCC, 885 F.3d 687 (D.C. Cir. 2018), the Third Circuit held that the system at issue must be analyzed using a “present capacity” standard and that the plaintiff had failed to present any evidence to show that, under this standard, the system could function as an autodialer. Continue reading   »

Comments Filed in Reassigned Numbers and Post-ACA International Proceedings

Two important TCPA proceedings are underway at the FCC. The first proceeding addresses the potential creation of a reassigned number database and the second proceeding involves a host of key issues in the wake of the D.C. Circuit ruling in ACA International v. Federal Communications Commission, No. 15-1211 (D.C. Cir. March. 16, 2018), including reassigned number liability, revocation of consent and the definition of an “automatic telephone dialing system.” Cf. 47 U.S. Code § 227(a)(1). Continue reading   »

District of Arizona Grants Summary Judgment on ATDS Issues in the Wake of ACA International v. FCC

The District of Arizona recently became one of the first courts in the country to address the definition of an ATDS in light of the D.C. Circuit’s blockbuster ruling in ACA International v. FCC, 885 F.3d 687 (D.C. Cir. 2018). Our previous client alert regarding ACA predicted that the decision would provide TCPA defendants with increased opportunities to defeat claims based on plaintiffs’ failure to prove the use of an ATDS. The Herrick v. GoDaddy.com, LLC case exemplifies how defendants can use the ACA decision to combat TCPA claims on this issue and hopefully foreshadows an emerging wave of favorable decisions. Continue reading   »

FCC Seeks Comments on Key Issues Post-ACA Int’l

Less than a week after the D.C. Circuit issued its mandate in the ACA Int’l v. FCC matter, the FCC has now asked for comments on critical TCPA issues in light of the D.C. Circuit’s now-final decision. See ACA Int’l v. FCC, 885 F.3d 687 (D.C. Cir. 2018).

In its May 14, 2018 Public Notice, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau has identified several key issues on which it seeks comments, including the scope of the ATDS definition, how to treat calls to reassigned numbers, and standards for revoking consent. On each issue, the Notice confirms that the FCC is taking a much broader view of the TCPA landscape than it did in its 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order (“2015 TCPA Order”)—and is willing to consider, in light of the ACA Int’l decision, bright-line rules that will provide much-needed clarity to businesses and litigants. Continue reading   »

Industry Groups Urge FCC to Clarify ATDS After ACA Int’l

On May 3, 2018, a broad range of 18 industry groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce petitioned the FCC to take much-needed action to curb abusive TCPA litigation stemming from prior FCC and court interpretations of the definition of an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”). The petition naturally followed from the D.C. Circuit’s decision in ACA Int’l v. Fed. Commc’ns Comm’n, 885 F.3d 687 (D.C. Cir. 2018) to vacate the FCC’s ATDS interpretation contained in the 2015 FCC Declaratory Ruling and Order (“2015 TCPA Order”) as unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious. The petitioners seek clarity on the definition of an ATDS so businesses can better understand how they can effectively communicate with their customers without fear of liability under Section 227(b) of the TCPA. Continue reading   »

Senators Urge FCC to Act in the Face of ACA Int’l

On April 18, 2018, a group of fifteen Democratic senators addressed a letter to FCC Chairman Pai related to the D.C. Circuit’s recent decision in ACA Int’l v. Fed. Commc’ns Comm’n, 885 F.3d 687 (D.C. Cir. 2018). The letter notes that the ACA decision “struck down portions of a 2015 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Omnibus Declaratory Ruling and Order limiting the definition of automatic telephone dialing systems (auto dialers), which are technologies that can be used to rapidly call and text large groups of consumers,” and expresses concern that “[w]hile the Court maintained the right to revoke consent, the Court’s ruling could be interpreted to suggest that callers could limit consumers’ method to revoke consent to receive robocalls and robotexts through provisions buried in contracts or service agreements,” which would “upend the meaning and the goals of the TCPA.” The senators ask Chairman Pai and the FCC to take the following actions: Continue reading   »