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The Telephone Consumer Protection Act prohibits the use of an automatic telephone dialing system to call or text any cellular phone without the prior consent of the recipient, as well as to call certain hospital numbers. 47 U.S.C.S. § 227(b)(1). An automatic telephone dialing system is defined as: equipment which has the capacity-(A) to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and (B) to dial such numbers. § 227(a)(1). Text messages are covered.
This dispute stems from AT&T's "Customer Rules Feedback Tool," a device that sends surveys to customers who have interacted with AT&T's customer service department. Using this tool, AT&T sent Chicago resident Ali Gadelhak five text messages asking survey questions in Spanish. But Gadelhak is neither an AT&T customer nor a Spanish speaker, and his number is on the national "Do Not Call Registry." Annoyed by the texts, Gadelhak brought a putative class action against AT&T for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which Congress enacted in 1991 to address the problem of intrusive telemarketing.
Was AT&T's "Customer Rules Feedback Tool" an "automatic telephone dialing system" as defined by the Act, thus, AT&T violated the Act when it sent unwanted automated text messages to Gadelhak?
The court held that AT&T did not violate the TCPA when it sent unwanted automated text messages to Gadelhak because AT&T’s customer rules feedback tool neither stored nor produced numbers using a random or sequential number generator, as was required for the TCPA to apply, but instead, it exclusively dialed numbers stored in the customer database, and thus, it was not an automatic telephone dialing system as defined by the TCPA.