(April 1, 2021) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate
Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Congresswoman Anna G.
Eshoo (CA-18), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee,
today criticized the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to narrowly interpret the
Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA). Senator Markey, one of the
original authors of the TCPA, and Congresswoman Eshoo released the following
statement and denounced the Court for abandoning consumers and opening the
floodgates to untold numbers of new robocalls.
“Today, the Supreme Court tossed aside years of precedent,
clear legislative history, and essential consumer protection to issue a ruling
that is disastrous for everyone who has a mobile phone in the United States,” said the lawmakers in a joint statement. “It was clear
when the TCPA was introduced that Congress wanted to ban dialing from a
database. By narrowing the scope of the TCPA, the Court is allowing companies
the ability to assault the public with a non-stop wave of unwanted calls and
texts, around the clock.
“Fortunately, we can and will act to make right what the
Supreme Court got wrong. We plan to soon introduce legislation to amend the
TCPA, fix the Court’s error, and protect consumers. If the Justices find their
private mobile phones ringing non-stop from now until our legislation becomes
law, they’ll only have themselves to blame,”
the lawmakers continued.
A bipartisan Congress enacted the TCPA in 1991 to prohibit
companies from engaging in robocalling. Since then, the TCPA has helped block
untold numbers of abusive robocalls from invading Americans’ homes and scamming
some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens. The legislative history for the
TCPA makes it clear that Congress was not only concerned with corporate America
randomly generating numbers and calling those numbers, but was also concerned
with corporate America buying lists to make telemarketing calls.
With this in mind, Senator
Markey and Congresswoman Eshoo led 19 members of Congress to submit an amicus
brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold the 9th Circuit’s decision in
Duguid v. Facebook, Inc, which found that when Congress passed the TCPA, it
defined Automatic Telephone Dialing System (“ATDS”) to include systems like
predictive dialers that dial telephone numbers stored in a list or database.
The brief warned that a narrow reading of the TCPA to exclude dialing from
databases would reverse decades of precedent and give a green light to
telemarketers and scammers to initiate billions of automated calls and texts to
Americans who have a united disdain for intrusive robocalls. Unfortunately,
today’s decision makes this a reality, as the TCPA no longer protects consumers
from robocall and texting campaigns that can reach every cellular number in the
entire country every hour of the day.