Whether the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s autodialer restriction only covers dialers that generate random or sequential telephone numbers.
One of the main provisions of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) protects Americans from unwanted calls delivered through an “automatic telephone dialing system,” or autodialer. An autodialer is defined in the TCPA as “equipment which has the capacity to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator and to dial such numbers.”
In April 2021, the Supreme Court ruled in Facebook v. Duguid that the TCPA’s restriction on autodialers only covered equipment that had the capacity to use a “random or sequential number generator.” Since Duguid, the question of what “random or sequential number generator” means—is it something that generates any number or is it limited to telephone numbers?—has become hotly contested in TCPA cases. EPIC has filed amicus briefs in several such cases.
Coy Evans and several others collectively received hundreds of debt collection calls from Ocwen Loan Servicing, even after repeated requests for the calls to stop. Evans and others sued Ocwen in October 2018, then filed an Amended Consolidated Complaint in July 2021 following the Supreme Court’s decision in Duguid. The amended complaint includes allegations that Ocwen’s dialing system used random or sequential number generators to order telephone numbers for dialing and that it also had the capacity to generate random and sequential telephone numbers.
In October 2021, the Southern District of Florida granted Ocwen’s Motion to Dismiss the Plaintiffs’ TPCA claims, finding that Duguid requires a dialer to actually generate random or sequential telephone numbers to qualify as an autodialer. Evans appealed to the Eleventh Circuit.
EPIC, along with our partner the National Consumer Law Center, filed an amicus brief arguing that mass dialing systems that use random or sequential number generators to generate any type of number—not just telephone numbers—qualify as autodialers under the TCPA. EPIC explained that the scope of the Supreme Court’s holding in Duguid was limited and that the Court did not decide what the phrase “random or sequential number generator” meant. EPIC argued that the phrase should not be limited to telephone number generation because the plain language of the statute is broad. EPIC also described, from a technical perspective, what random and sequential number generators are and how they work in automated mass dialers. EPIC explained how number generator technology differentiates an autodialer from common dialing systems, like cellphones, eliminating overbreadth concerns.