While many of us have come to accept annoying advertisements as part of our daily lives, few of us expect to pay money out of our own pocket in order to be annoyed by promotional advertising. It was with this fact in mind that the Telephone Consumer Protection act (TCPA) was enacted to protect consumers from paying for phone calls that companies make to advertise their products or services.
While calling current and potential customers has long been an advertising method for companies, consumers began complaining with the advent of cell phones. This is because cell phone users are charged for each call that they receive, or get a deduction of minutes from their plan, regardless of whether or not the call is authorized. The TCPA was therefore enacted, making it illegal for companies to make unauthorized calls to consumers except in the case of an emergency.
Along with cell phones came the invention and the increasing popularity of text messages. As technology evolves, the law is forced to change in order to accommodate it, especially when our forms of communication are affected. A court is San Diego will soon determine if text messages should be treated the same as phone calls under the TCPA.
The lawsuit involves a class of consumers who allege that Guess? Inc. contacted them through text messages in violation of the TCPA. According to the complaint, this is a result of the fact that marketers have recently been “stymied by federal laws limiting solicitation by telephone, facsimile machine and e-mail have increasingly looked to alternative technologies through which to send bulk solicitations to consumers easily and cheaply”. Advertisements sent through facsimile machines are also illegal, because the consumer is the one that has to pay for the paper and ink used to print the facsimile when it comes through.
Faridah Haghayeghi, the named plaintiff in the class action lawsuit, alleges that she received several unsolicited text messages from Guess? Inc. in 2013, but according to the complaint, the company has been sending these mass text messages to consumers since at least 2009, if not earlier. The aim of the text messages was allegedly to promote the defendant’s products to current and potential customers. Haghayeghi alleges that she did not provide Guess? Inc. or any of its agents with prior consent to send her these text messages and that the company never told her that it would use her cell phone number to send her promotional text messages.
The lawsuit alleges that each text message was created using equipment which had the ability to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator. Because of this, the lawsuit is claiming that these mass text messages are prohibited under the federal TCPA.
The TCPA entitles plaintiffs who file successful complaints under the statute to $500 for each violation of the TCPA. In accordance with the statute, Haghayeghi is filing the lawsuit in pursuit of $500 in statutory damages for herself and for each member of the class.
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