Northern District of Illinois Rejects Expansive Definition of Autodialer for Spanish Survey Texts

In the midst of chaos over the proper definition of the statutory term “automated telephone dialing system,” the Northern District of Illinois reminds us that the plain language of the TCPA still matters.  In granting summary judgment to AT&T in Gadelhak v. AT&T Servs., No. 17-cv-01559 (March 29, 2019), the Court found that AT&T’s texting system did not qualify as an ATDS because the system did not “store” telephone numbers “using a random or sequential number generator” as the numbers were dialed from a predetermined list.

The lawsuit arose from AT&T survey texts sent to customers who had engaged in qualifying transactions with a customer service representative.  The plaintiff filed a putative TCPA class action against AT&T alleging that he received 5 survey text messages from AT&T in Spanish—though he was not a customer of AT&T or any of its affiliates, did not speak Spanish, and had registered his phone number on the DNC Registry.

AT&T maintained that its system was only designed to text AT&T customers and that the plaintiff’s number “must have been erroneously listed” on an account.  The record evidence revealed that AT&T’s computer system would first identify all phone numbers on accounts with customer-service transactions, send the list of phone numbers to marketing for processing, and then whittle the list down to only the first cell phone number listed on the relevant accounts.  AT&T’s vendor would send the text-message surveys out to this reduced list of cell phone numbers.

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