Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) companies are prohibited from sending automated text messages to mobile phones without receiving permission first. This can become an issue when a cellular phone number has been recycled. When this occurs, the original user of that phone number may have given their permission to be called or text messages to be sent, however the new user may not have. Some states have already ruled that the company needs to obtain permission from the new user to call or send messages using an automated redialer, or they are in violation of the TCPA.
In a recent class action lawsuit filed in California, a Massachusetts woman is alleging that the social network Twitter is sending unsolicited text messages via Short Message Service (SMS) to phone numbers that have been recycled. Every month it is estimated that the company processes nearly 1 billion SMS tweets.
People who have not opted into receiving text messages from Twitter, or have never even used the social networking site have been receiving text messages simply because the previous user of that phone number may have consented to receiving messages. The lead plaintiff in this case alleges that there were mass violations of the TCPA, where Twitter spammed her and other cellphone users with a large number of automated text messages for the purpose of generating revenue. This class action is seeking to represent hundreds, potentially thousands, of individuals and entities.
The lead plaintiff Beverly Nunes, got a new phone number last November. She then started receiving promotional texts multiple times a day from a Twitter SMS short code. However, Nunes never had a Twitter account. She also expressly requested that the messages not be sent.
According to the lawsuit, Twitter will collect and store user date, such as cellular telephone numbers, for the purpose of sending automated text messages en masse. According to Nunes, seventy percent of Twitter’s advertising revenue last year came from mobile devices.
Twitter will also automatically send unsolicited messages to people before verifying that they have opted into the messages. The social networking company will simply treat the new owners of these recycled cellular telephone numbers as the original owner who opted into receiving the messages. Additionally, the lawsuit also alleges that Twitter has sent SMS text messages to people who have opted out of receiving them when they failed to honor replies of "unsubscribe" or "stop," which is supposed to stop the unwanted notifications. While Twitter could clean its database and respond to requests to opt-out, Nunes claims that this would limit the company's ability to make profits.
The practices mentioned in the lawsuit allegedly violate the TCPA, which prohibits companies from sending automated text messages to mobile phones without having received permission first. The class action claims that by sending these unwanted text messages, consumers suffered actual harm, including aggravation and invasion of privacy. Furthermore, depending on the recipients plan, the consumer may have to pay for those text messages.
The plaintiff in this lawsuit is seeking $500 for each violation of the TCPA. However, Nunes may not have a case against Twitter, as it is unclear whether Twitter used an automated redialer to transmit the text messages.
Our experienced attorneys here at Krohn and Moss Consumer Law Center have also provided many helpful resources regarding the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and how debt collectors should act. For more information, click here to learn more about this act and how it can help you.
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