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.
The TCPA prohibits the use of an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) to place calls to wireless phones without the called party’s prior express consent. Because calls placed without the use of an ATDS are not subject to the TCPA’s prior express consent requirements, what constitutes an ATDS has been a hotly contested issue. This issue can be expected to take on even greater importance under the new FCC rules that take effect on October 16, because the “prior express consent” requirement will now require written consent. Telemarketers, it can be expected, may explore ways to abandon the use of equipment that would fall within the definition of ATDS and to modify or replace that equipment with something that would not be an ATDS.