On April 1, 2021, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid. The high court sided with Facebook, holding that the Telephone and Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) of 1991 does not ban equipment that can “store” and “automatically dial” telephone numbers.
The case started when Duguid sued Facebook under the TCPA after receiving several text messages from Facebook, even though he never had a Facebook account or gave the company his phone number. The text messages were sent to him using a form of automated technology, but importantly that technology was not an “autodialer.” The TCPA defines “autodialers” as equipment with the capacity both “to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator,” and to dial those numbers. 47 U. S. C. §227(a)(1). Both Duguid’s and Facebook’s arguments turned on the statutory text. Specifically, the parties disputed whether the clause “using a random or sequential number generator” in §227(a)(1)(A) modified both of the two verbs that precede it (“store” and “produce”). Facebook contended that the clause did modify both of the verbs, while Duguid asserted that the clause only modified the closest verb (“produce”).
The Supreme Court agreed with Facebook and held that the TCPA’s text only prohibits the use of a random or sequential number generator. As a result, equipment that stores and dials telephone numbers is still appropriate for use. However, the Court did place the ball in Congress’ court, stating that Duguid’s real quarrel with was them.