FCC Chair Says Congress May Need to Act to Expand Definition of ATDS Under TCPA

The chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission is calling on Congress to help amend the definition of an automated telephone dialing system because the Supreme Court’s decision in Facebook v. Duguid “could lead to less consumer protection from robocalls,” she wrote in a letter responding to a request from Rep. Vern Buchanan [R-Fla.] about the FCC’s fight against robocalls.

The indication that “additional authority” may be needed from Congress might represent the first time that Jessica Rosenworcel has addressed the topic of autodialers and their impact on combatting the proliferation of illegal robocalls. Many in the accounts receivable management industry will remember the FCC’s attempt in 2015 to redefine what constituted an ATDS under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. That attempt was thwarted by ACA International, which successfully sued the agency for overstepping its authority. The FCC has been tasked with working on a new rule in the years following that court ruling, but has yet to release anything.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Facebook held that an ATDS as defined in the TCPA must be one that has “the capacity either to store a telephone number using a random or sequential generator or to produce a telephone number using a random or sequential number generator.”

In her letter, Rosenworcel details the efforts undertaken at the FCC to fight illegal robocalls, including its enforcement actions, implementing the TRACED Act, and rolling out the STIR/SHAKEN initiative. And while those efforts appear to be having a “positive effect” on reducing the amount of illegal robocalls, more may need to be done by Congress, she said.

“… I believe additional authority to combat these calls may be required from Congress,” she writes. “For example, the decision last year by the Supreme Court in Facebook v. Duguid narrowed the definition of autodialer under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which could lead to less consumer protection from robocalls. We also need more tools to catch those behind these calls, including the ability to seize assets to stop them in their tracks and the authority to enable the Commission to go to court directly and collect fines against bad actors.”

Details of the letter were first reported by TCPAWorld.com.

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