According to a January 29, 2019, report by The Washington Post, Americans received approximately 26.3 billion automated phone calls in 2018, a 46 percent increase over the total number of automated calls received in 2017. The increase can be attributed in part to a federal appellate court ruling that expanded the types of equipment that can be used legally to make automated calls.
On March 16, 2018, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued its ruling in ACA International v. Federal Communications Commission, striking down a rule promulgated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the types of equipment that can be used for making automated phone calls. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), enacted in 1991, granted the FCC the authority to interpret and enforce the law’s restrictions against the use of certain kinds of automated dialing equipment. In 2015, the FCC issued an order that, among other things, classified devices capable of being transformed into automated dialing systems via the installation of apps as devices subject to the restrictions of the TCPA. The court found that this classification metric was overly broad.
Judge Srikanth Srinivasan, appointed to the court by Barack Obama (D), wrote the following in the court’s opinion: “The Commission’s understanding would appear to subject ordinary calls from any conventional smartphone to the Act’s coverage, an unreasonably expansive interpretation of the statute.” Srinivasan was joined by Judges Cornelia T. L. Pillard and Harry Edwards, who were appointed to the court by Obama and Jimmy Carter (D), respectively.