A recent opinion in a federal appellate case (D.C. Circuit Court) was a huge win for American businesses utilizing automated telephone solicitations. The court unanimously voted against a 2015 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule aimed at limiting auto-dialing devices, but which also would have prohibited calls from any smartphone. That outcome, which certainly would have affected everyday callers, was a primary reason the court struck down the rule
Under the rule, any unsolicited call or message from a device capable of auto-dialing, as opposed to an unsolicited call that was actually auto-dialed, would constitute a violation of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The appellate court noted that, under that rule, a cell-to-cell telephone call from one friend to another to extend a dinner invitation would have penalized the caller $500 if the caller did not have her friend’s prior express permission to make the call.
Furthermore, this rule exposed companies to liability for good faith attempts to communicate with customers who had previously provided valid consent to be contacted. With the ruling, however, U.S. companies should be able to avoid increasingly burdensome class-action liability. Further, companies should still be aware that the court did affirm a part of the rule allowing any person to revoke consent from calls through “any reasonable means.”
While the FCC has stated that it will continue to fight robo-calls, it did concede that technological advancements are good for society and that communications between individuals should be promoted. Luckily, it seems this ruling removes unnecessary and inappropriate liability for companies who legitimately want to reach their consenting customers.