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What’s in an Autodialer? Facebook Again Seeks High Court Clarity

July 7, 2020, 7:20 PM

Facebook Inc. wants the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve a circuit court split over the scope of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, after the high court’s Monday ruling upholding the anti-robocall statute.

The social network, in a brief filed Tuesday, urged the court to take up a 2019 petition asking for clarification of the term “autodialer” under the TCPA, an issue that has vexed lower courts.

Facebook says it’s time for the court assess the “autodialer” definition, now that it has affirmed the law’s constitutionality in its Monday decision in Barr v. AAPC. The company wants the justices to review the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s broad autodialer definition in Facebook Inc. v Duguid.

“In light of the Court’s resolution of AAPC, Facebook will continue to face liability in the Ninth Circuit for the innocuous security messages at issue here, while the majority of circuits limit the statute to the kind of robocalling technology Congress actually targeted in the TCPA,” Facebook said.

The 1991 federal law bans companies from using an autodialer to call or text consumers without their consent, but circuit courts are split over what technologies can be considered autodialers.

Resolving the issue would help businesses assess when they’re liable for calling and texting customers.

The Second and Ninth Circuits have ruled that many technologies count as autodialers, while the D.C., Third, Seventh, and Eleventh Circuits have favored a narrower definition.

The case is Facebook Inc. v. Duguid, U.S., No. 19-511, Supplemental brief filed 7/7/20

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Reid in Washington at jreid@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Melissa B. Robinson at mrobinson@bloomberglaw.com, Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

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