Consumer News

AG Derek Schmidt: Federal anti-robocall law should be interpreted broadly to protect consumers

Release Date: Oct 26, 2020

TOPEKA – (October 26, 2020) – The U.S. Supreme Court should affirm a lower court ruling that strengthens the main federal law used to fight robocalls to cellphones, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says.

Schmidt joined the attorneys general of 36 other states and the District of Columbia in filing a brief last week with the U.S. Supreme Court in an appeal filed by social media giant Facebook. The states are asking the justices to affirm a lower court ruling that supported a broad definition of "automatic telephone dialing system," commonly called “autodialers,” based on the plain language in the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The TCPA generally prohibits the use of autodialers or an artificial or pre-recorded voice to make a call to cell phone users. At issue is whether autodialers include only a device that can store and dial numbers it generates, or whether autodialers also includes devices that select a random number from numbers on a targeted list.

The attorneys general argue that the TCPA applies to all devices that store and dial numbers automatically, whether they are sequential numbers, numbers selected from a targeted list, or numbers that are randomly generated. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld this broader definition when it heard and rejected Facebook’s appeal in 2019.

“Facebook’s attempt to limit TCPA’s application to autodialers that use number generators misreads the statute’s words and all other indicia of Congress’s intent,” the attorneys general wrote in their brief. “To further, not hinder, the TCPA’s manifest purpose, the court should hold it applicable to systems that automatically dial stored numbers and affirm the judgment of the court of appeals.”

The attorneys general wrote that the TCPA is written to minimize the burden on legitimate business activity where the consumer has voluntarily consented to providing phone numbers to potential business callers. By narrowing the interpretation of the act, robocallers and robotexters would remain able to inundate cellphones, as well as emergency numbers, hospitals and business-phone systems, with unwanted communications.

A copy of the brief in Facebook v. Noah Duguid can be found at https://bit.ly/2TmUg5s.

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