The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously decided that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) covers only random-fired calls and texts to cellphones from an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS).

The decision in Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid, et al., issued on April 1, 2021, overturned a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling where the appellate court broadly defined the type of automatic telephone dialing system covered under the TCPA. The Supreme Court's narrow interpretation of the autodialer definition and its applicability to new technologies is a significant win for the defense bar. The decision is expected to meaningfully reduce the swell of class action litigation under this statute.

The Supreme Court sided with Facebook's interpretation that an autodialer under the statute does not apply to technologies used by Facebook and other companies using similar technologies. The opinion written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor states that "[a] necessary feature of an autodialer under [the TCPA] is the capacity to use a random or sequential number generator to either store or produce phone numbers to be called." Facebook argued that the company sent targeted texts to phone numbers already in its database; therefore, the TCPA did not apply.

Dislike of robocalls and texts is a rare bipartisan issue. The decision may open the door for Congress to pass legislation that updates the 1992 statute to cover new technologies or to pass legislation that will apply to technologies used by companies such as Facebook. Several states also have TCPA-like statutes that establish their own restrictions regarding automated dialing and texting. It will therefore be essential for companies to assess state-level limitations before implementing changes based on the Supreme Court's decision.

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