Central District of California Finds ACA Set Aside All FCC Autodialer Guidance

In Washington v. Six Continents Hotels, Inc., No. 2:16-CV-03719-ODW-JEM, 2018 WL 4092024 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 24, 2018), the Central District of California found that ACA International v. FCC, 885 F.3d 687 (D.C. Cir. 2018) [hereinafter ACA], set aside all prior FCC guidance regarding the definition of an autodialer.

The plaintiff, Eric Washington ("Plaintiff"), alleged that Six Continents Hotels, Inc. ("Six Continents") sent him numerous unsolicited text messages using an automatic telephone dialing system ("ATDS") in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA"). See generally id. The case was initially stayed pending the outcome of ACA. Following the decision in ACA, Six Continents moved to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint on the grounds that it did not state a claim under the TCPA. See generally id.

Generally speaking, the TCPA prohibits the use of an ATDS to place calls to cell phones without the recipient's prior express consent. See 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii). The Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") has issued several rulings interpreting the meaning of an ATDS, including rulings in 2003, 2008, and 2015. In Washington, the parties disputed the standing of these FCC Rulings following the D.C. Circuit's decision in ACA. See Washington, 2018 WL 4092024, at *2-3. Specifically, Plaintiff argued that the ACA decision only set aside the FCC's 2015 ruling while Six Continents argued the ACA decision set aside the FCC rulings since 2003, which would require the court to apply the plain language of the TCPA statute. See generally id.

The Central District of California determined ACA set aside the FCC's "'treatment of [which functions qualify a device as an autodialer].'" See id. at *3 (quoting ACA Int'l, 885 F.3d at 703)). The court explained "[a]s the court in ACA did not set aside a ruling, but rather the FCC's treatment of the definition of an autodialer, this treatment was set aside from all previous FCC rulings." See id. Thus, the court found that ACA "reached all aspects of FCC rulings which allowed for 'potential capacity' to generate random or sequential numbers and which established a predictive dialer as an ATDS" and "significantly narrowed the definition of an ATDS." Id. at *4. Nonetheless, the court found that Plaintiff alleged sufficient facts supporting a claim that Six Continents' system was an ATDS under the TCPA to survive Six Continents' motion to dismiss.

In reaching its decision, the Central District of California joins several other courts that have found that ACA vacated all prior FCC guidance on autodialers.

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