In a decision released on April 7, the Second Circuit joined the Ninth Circuit in adopting an expansive interpretation of what qualifies as an Automatic Telephone Dialing System (ATDS), finding that online texting platforms that use human-generated lists and require a human to click “send” on a screen to initiate the texts falls within the statutory definition. Duran v. La Boom Disco, Inc., No. 19-600, 2020 WL 1682773, at *8–9 (2d Cir. Apr. 7, 2020). In an effort to respond to expected critics of their approach, the court explained its view of why “so-called smartphones” and other modern devices do not qualify as an ATDS despite having similar functionality to the online texting platforms at issue (the ability to store a list of numbers and to dial them by simply clicking “send”). Id. at *8 n.39. The decision deepens the divide between circuit courts on what qualifies as an ATDS.
As consumers and businesses await clarity from the FCC regarding the definition of “automatic telephone dialing system” (“ATDS”), district courts throughout the country continue to grapple with competing appellate decisions in order to resolve pending cases within this uncertain and fast-changing legal landscape. A recent decision, Roark v. Credit One Bank, N.A., No. 16-173, 2018 WL 5921652 (D. Minn. Nov. 13, 2018) (available here), provides an illustration of this current climate, as a Minnesota federal judge had to address four appellate cases concerning the ATDS definition from this year alone, including the seminal ACA International decision. The decision is also notable because the court concluded that the defendant’s “predictive dialing systems” did not violate the TCPA. Continue reading
In Pozo v. Stellar Recovery Collection Agency, Inc., No. 15-0929 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 2, 2016), the Middle District of Florida recently entered summary judgment against the plaintiff because it determined that an ATDS had not been used to call her.
The defendant in Pozo used a web-based dialing program called Human Call Initiator (“HCI”) to initiate the calls. HCI uses a “point-and-click” process that allows calls to be initiated by human “clicker agents.” Specifically, the program will not initiate a call until a clicker agent manually confirms in a dialogue box that the call should be made to that particular number. If a call is answered, the clicker agent then refers the call to a “closer agent” who speaks with the debtor. The program also allows clicker agents to view the availability of closer agents and will not initiate a call unless a closer agent is available. Continue reading
On Wednesday the Joint Petitioners and the FCC filed their final briefs in the consolidated appeal from the FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order, which is pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Their briefs are summarized below.
The Joint Petitioners’ Final Brief
The Joint Petitioners’ final brief reiterates their primary challenges to the FCC’s rulings regarding the definition of an ATDS, the identity of the “called party” from which consent must be obtained, and the extent of that party’s ability to revoke that consent. Continue reading
On February 16th, the joint Petitioners, supporting Intervenors, and Rite Aid Hdqrtrs. Corp. (“Rite Aid”) each filed a reply brief in support of the consolidated appeal of the FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order. Each brief addresses the deficiencies of the FCC’s response filed on January 15th, which was first reported here. The main arguments are summarized below. Continue reading
On Friday, January 15, 2016, the Federal Communications Commission filed its response to the arguments of the joint Petitioners in the consolidated appeal from its July 10, 2015 Omnibus Ruling. The Commission’s brief addresses the scope of its statutory authority, the definition of an “automatic telephone dialing system” (“ATDS”), the meaning of “called party” and the potential liability for calls to recycled numbers, the ability to revoke consent, healthcare-related calls and the emergency purpose exception, and First Amendment challenges to the Commission’s interpretations of the statute. Its main arguments are summarized below.
The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida (J. James D. Whittemore) recently granted LTD Financial Services, L.P.’s motion for partial summary judgment in a TCPA case involving pre-recorded calls allegedly placed to plaintiff’s cellular telephone. See Estrella v. LTD Financial Services, LP, No. 14-2624, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 148249 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 2, 2015). As we have previously covered, district courts across the country have demonstrated a willingness to dispose of cases where the records fail to establish that the calls or text messages at issue were sent using an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”).
The District of Massachusetts recently entered summary judgment in favor of a plaintiff after deferring to FCC statements that purport to expand the definition of an automated telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) to include predictive dialers that can dial stored numbers without human intervention. See Davis v. Diversified Consultants, Inc., No. 13-10875 (D. Mass. June 27, 2014).
Judge Baylson of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently granted Yahoo! summary judgment in a case challenging Yahoo’s automatic email to text alert system because it did not use an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) when it forwarded emails as text messages. In doing so, he applied the plain meaning of the statutory definition of ATDS, rejected an FCC opinion that had purported to broaden it, and disagreed with Judge Curiel in the Southern District of California, who denied a similar motion by Yahoo! just weeks ago. See Dominguez v. Yahoo!, Inc., No. 13-1887, slip op. (E.D. Pa. Mar. 20, 2014); Sherman v, Yahoo!, Inc., No. 13-0041, slip op. (S.D. Cal. Feb. 3, 2014). The decision is important because it limits the definition of ATDS to those systems that can generate (as opposed to merely dial) a list of numbers on a “random or sequential” basis.