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.”
The primary question in the Panzarella v. Navient appeal is whether “equipment” in the TCPA’s autodialer restriction includes a database that is a necessary component of the dialer but is not sold as a unit with the dialing software. Plaintiffs in this case argue that the database Navient used to feed customer contacts into its mass dialing software had the “capacity” to generate random or sequential telephone numbers that the dialing software could then dial.
While this appeal was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Facebook v. Duguid that an autodialer must have the capacity to use a random or sequential number generator to either store telephone numbers to be called or to produce the telephone numbers to be called. The opinion rested primarily on the grammatical structure of the autodialer definition.
A few weeks before oral argument in Panzarella, the Third Circuit panel hearing the case ordered supplemental briefing on Duguid‘s effect on the case. The panel intended to limit briefing to two questions about the term “capacity” but characterized Duguid‘s overall holding as requiring that a dialer generate random or sequential telephone numbers to qualify as an autodialer. Navient’s supplemental brief made the same mistake. EPIC and the National Consumer Law Center filed an amicus brief clarifying Duguid‘s holding and asking the Panzarella panel not to decide what kind of numbers an autodialer must generate because the question was not at issue in this case.