SCOTUS Settles Robocaller Debate


Tim Mooney

On April 1, the Supreme Court settled a technical dispute between two camps in the federal Circuit Court of Appeals over what constitutes an automatic telephone dialing system, more commonly referred to as a robocaller.

In Facebook v.Duguid, the Court ruled that a device or software that only stores telephone numbers but does not also have “a random or sequential number generator” as part of its functionality is not an autodialer. Therefore, the numbers dialed don’t require the consent of the receiving party under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

In choosing the narrower definition of the two before the Court, the majority noted that “[e]xpanding the definition of an autodialer to encompass any equipment that merely stores and dials telephone numbers would take a chain saw to [problems caused by autodialers] when Congress meant to use a scalpel.”

For specific details on the ruling, see this memo by Trister, Ross, Schadler & Gold.

For broader information on the federal regulation of autodialing, see the 2016 Alliance for Justice publication, Robocalling Rules: What You Need to Know About Robocalls, Robotexts, and Autodialers.