Text Message Not An “Artificial or Prerecorded Voice,” Ninth Circuit Rules

TCPA Connect

A text message does not qualify as an “artificial or prerecorded voice” under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled late this summer.

In her TCPA class action, Lucine Trim alleged a violation of Section 227(b)(1)(A) of the TCPA because she received at least three mass marketing text messages from Reward Zone that utilized “prerecorded voices.”

The initial text stated, “Hiya Lucine, you are a valuable customer. In these tough times, let us [] reimburse [you] for your shopping needs.”

Trim argued that because one definition of “voice” in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary is “an instrument or medium of expression,” the automatic message sent to her constituted a prerecorded voice as prohibited by the TCPA.

The district court disagreed and granted Reward Zone’s motion to dismiss.

Trim appealed and the Ninth Circuit held that the text messages did not include audible components.

“This conclusion follows from the statutory context of the TCPA, and the ordinary meaning of voice, which show that Congress used the word voice to include only an audible sound, and not a more symbolic definition such as an instrument or medium of expression,” the Court wrote. “The ordinary meaning of ‘voice’ when the TCPA was enacted was a ‘[s]ound formed in or emitted from the human larynx in speaking,’” the Ninth Circuit added. “Other definitions also show that the ordinary meaning of voice relates only to audible sound.”

While Trim accurately noted that voice can also be used symbolically, the Court stated that Trim failed to provide any evidence that Congress intended an idiosyncratic definition and “we presume Congress intended to legislate the primary meaning of voice, which requires an audible component.” The Court wrote, “Because Trim’s arguments regarding the statutory context fail to overcome plain meaning, our ‘sole function’ is to enforce the statute according to its clear terms, under which no text message sent by Reward Zone to Trim used a prerecorded voice in violation of § 227(b)(1)(A).”

To read the opinion in Trim v. Reward Zone USA, click here.

Why it matters

Finding the language of the TCPA was unambiguous, the Ninth Circuit applied the ordinary meaning of voice and refused to adopt a symbolic or metaphorical definition of the term, rejecting the plaintiff’s claim that text messages violate Section 227(b)(1)(A) of the statute.  



pursuant to New York DR 2-101(f)

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