Aftershocks Being Felt: The TCPA After ACA International v. FCC

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The aftershocks from the D.C. Circuit’s opinion in ACA International v. FCC are beginning to be felt.  In ACA International, the D.C. Circuit set aside several elements of the FCC’s 2015 Declaratory Ruling.  A recent opinion by the Third Circuit demonstrates some of the repercussions of that decision.

In Dominguez v. Yahoo, Inc., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 17436 (3rd Cir. June 26, 2018), the Third Circuit affirmed a judgment in favor of Yahoo despite fact that the consumer received 27,800 unwanted text messages.  In Dominguez, the consumer purchased a cell phone with a reassigned number.  The prior owner of the number had a subscription with Yahoo’s Email SMS Service which sent a text every time the prior owner received an email.  Because the prior owner of the number never cancelled the subscription, Mr. Dominguez became the recipient of 27,800 unwanted text messages.  Mr.  Dominguez filed a putative class action against Yahoo asserting violations of the TCPA.  The problem?  The district court concluded that the Email SMS Service did not qualify as an automated telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) because it did not have the capacity to store or produce telephone numbers using a random or sequential number generator.  On remand from a prior appeal, the consumer amended his complaint to take advantage of the FCC’s 2015 Declaratory Ruling and alleged that the Email SMS Service had the “latent or potential capacity” to store or produce telephone numbers using a random or sequential number generator.  The trial court again concluded that the Email SMS Service did not qualify as an ATDS.
 
On appeal, the Third Circuit relied upon the D.C. Circuit’s holding in ACA International to support its conclusion that the statutory definition of an ATDS requires the present capacity to function as an autodialer. In doing so, the court relied upon two key findings: first, that the Email SMS Service only sent messages to numbers that had been individually and manually inputted into its system by a user; and secondly, that the messages were sent because the previous owner of the message affirmatively opted to receive them and not because of a random number generation.  Dominguez, *9.
 
The opinion is a positive for the ARM industry because it demonstrates the potential impact of the D.C. Circuit’s decision and will likely to be followed by others that will more narrowly define the meaning of an ATDS.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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