Facebook’s Robocall victory in Supreme Court signals claims limit (1)
The United States Supreme Court’s Narrow Take on Autodialers Under Federal Anti-Autocall Act in Case Involving Junk Text From
The move is seen as a victory for companies defending themselves against a wave of robocall lawsuits. Companies including
Automated call claims tend to focus more on the technology used to contact consumers, “not the content of those calls,” according to Richard Perr, president of the consumer financial services practice at Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck LLP.
“Because they use a particular technology, that shouldn’t be a barrier,” Perr said. Companies should not be penalized for contacting consumers with whom they already have a business relationship, he added.
The tribunal ruled On Thursday, Facebook’s system for texting users about unauthorized logins to their social media accounts does not meet the definition of an autodialer in Consumer Protection Law by the telephone.
The decades-old law targeted telemarketers who dial large bands of numbers at a time, not companies like Facebook that text specific numbers, the unanimous decision said.
Facebook has sought Supreme Court review after an appeals court rejected the company’s offer to start the robotext lawsuit. The lawsuit focuses on account alerts sent to Noah Duguid, who took issue with the messaging because he was not a Facebook user and had not provided his number. Facebook said Duguid likely had a recycled number associated with another user.
Consumer advocates have warned against setting off a flood of unwelcome calls if the technology that dials numbers from a database is considered authorized.
“Many robo-callers and potential robo-callers will interpret the court ruling today as essentially repealing the autodialer restriction, which will likely lead to an increase in unwanted robocalls to cell phones,” said Megan Iorio, a lawyer at the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center said in an email. EPIC submitted a brief in the case urging the Supreme Court to decide on a broad ban on robocalls, saying a narrow definition would not protect people’s privacy.
The Supreme Court played down those concerns, saying its ruling did not affect the law’s general prohibition against appeals using artificial or pre-recorded voices. The decision also noted that the texts in question were individualized and intended for numbers linked to specific Facebook accounts.
“As the court acknowledged, the law’s provisions were never intended to prohibit businesses from sending targeted security notifications,” a Facebook spokeswoman said, adding that the ruling will allow businesses to continue working to protect user accounts.
The robocalls law was all about random or sequential dialing, a method that most businesses or other organizations contacting consumers do not use today. Instead, they often market to consumers using targeted lists, according to John Richer, shareholder of the Hall Estill law firm specializing in TCPA.
The Supreme Court ruling means that businesses that send random text messages to consumers will still be exposed to liability under the robocall law, Richer said. Those who use targeted marketing should have an easier time getting rid of consumer claims, he said.
Richer added that companies using automated methods to contact consumers should continue to obtain their consent.
The case is Facebook Inc. v. Duguid, US, n ° 19-511, decided on 4/1/21.