Collection Companies Among Group Filing Briefs Urging Supreme Court to Narrow ATDS Definition

A number of groups, including two debt collection companies, have filed briefs with the Supreme Court in support of Facebook in a Telephone Consumer Protection Act Case that seeks to define what constitutes an automated telephone dialing system once and for all.

Amicus briefs were due to be filed by Sept. 11. Included in the group that filed briefs in support of Facebook are Portfolio Recovery Associates, Midland Credit Management, Quicken Loans, Healthcare Companies, and the Professional Association for Customer Engagement and Noble Systems.

Appeals Courts have split on the definition of what constitutes an ATDS, which is why the Supreme Court has decided to weigh in. The Second Circuit and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals have ruled that an ATDS is defined as technology that has “the “capacity . . . to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator.” The Seventh and Eleventh Circuits, meanwhile, have determined that technology that does not have the capacity to generate random or sequential numbers does not meet the definition of an automated telephone dialing system under the TCPA.

“…the Ninth Circuit’s interpretation turns the focused ATDS ban into an overbroad prohibition on commonly used technology, ranging from modern smartphones to banal tools that numerous businesses like Petitioner and PRA use to communicate with their own customers and debtors,” PRA wrote in its brief. “Such a ban would violate the First Amendment, and this Court should thus avoid that reading.”

In its brief, Midland referenced the problems that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling has created.

“Thousands of TCPA lawsuits are filed every year against companies that never have used and never would think to use a random or sequential dialer (because they already have the numbers they intend to dial and often have had previous contact with the individuals associated with the numbers),” Midland wrote in its brief. “Healthcare, technology, travel, dining, entertainment, sports, financial services, retail — no sector of the economy is immune. Multimillion dollar class-action settlements are commonplace, because even innocent defendants often cannot run the risk of an adverse ruling. And the Ninth’s Circuit’s ruling will exacerbate the problem.”

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