Court Rules on Autodialed Calls to Residential VoIP Lines

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in October that calls made to residential lines using an autodialer can violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), but only if the residential line service charges for incoming calls.

The TCPA was first enacted in 1991, and was designed to protect consumers from unsolicited phone calls. The popular National Do Not Call Registry is an offshoot of this legislation. Recent cases have highlighted where technology has evolved faster than the law.

In this case, Lynn v Monarch Recovery Management, a debt collection agency was making calls to the plaintiff, who was using a VoIP provider who charged both for incoming calls and for Caller ID services on each call. The calls were actually intended for a previous resident of the home, but because they were using an autodialer with a recorded message, it was difficult for the plaintiff to alert Monarch to the mistake and to be taken off of their calling list.

In court, Monarch argued that it was not in violation of the TCPA because the calls were not made to a mobile line. However, the language of the TCPA states that the rules apply to mobile services as well as “any service for which the called party is charged for the call.” Because the plaintiff’s VoIP provider charges for incoming calls, the Court ruled that VoIP services may fall under TCPA protection from autodialers.

This decision remains unpublished, so it does not set a binding precedent. it remains to be seen if other judges will use similar reasoning in cases involving VoIP going forward. In the meantime, call centers, marketing firms and businesses that rely on VoIP and predictive dialers should be sure to maintain compliance to avoiding hefty fines.