If you've ever accidentally placed your phone number into the hands of spammy autodialers, a federal court today found that you have the right to have it removed. In a case against Dell, an appellate court in Philadelphia ruled that consumers are allowed to revoke their phone numbers from autodialer listings, even if they've given permission to be called in the past. Companies like Dell will still be able to make phone calls to those numbers, but they'll have to actually pick up the phone and dial each number by hand, and not just use automated software, whether it's ultimately connecting to a recorded message or a real person.

Dell can still call, it just has to pick up the phone and dial

The suit was raised by Ashley Gager, whose cellphone Dell used an automated dialing system to call approximately forty times in a three-week period. While Gager had previously allowed Dell to call her, she later wrote the company a letter asking that her number be removed from its database, but the company refused. Dell argued that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) didn't afford Gager that right, but the court disagreed. In part, the court came to that conclusion on the grounds that consent — as it's held to be elsewhere in the law — is revocable.

Autodial calls are generally legal, but only so long as permission is first granted by the person being called. However, the court notes that the distinction between whether that permission can later be revoked has been an unresolved aspect of the TCPA and related rules by the Federal Communication Commission. But the court found that the absence of an express right doesn't mean the right doesn't exist. "The TCPA is a remedial statute," Judge Jane Roth writes in her ruling, "It should be construed to benefit consumers."