Unwanted text messages from advertisers are subject to the same restrictions as annoying telemarketing calls, according to a recent court decision.
The 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) sets up opt-out provisions for blocking telemarketers from making “calls” using “automatic dialing systems”, and carries a hefty fine for violators. When the TCPA was established, the world hardly knew about cell phones, let alone text messages. But the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has ruled that the law applies equally to text as well as voice messages.
And the judges are beginning to agree. In a class-action suit brought by a consumer against Twentieth Century Fox for sending out an unwanted text ad pushing a newly available DVD, Fox tried to have the suit thrown out, claiming the TCPA did not apply, since a text message is not a “call.”
A Federal district court judge in Illinois, after consulting some other recent decisions in other federal courts, eventually ruled that the text message is, for the terms of the law, a call, and that the class-action suit can proceed. This does not mean that the suit will win, but it does mean that the applicability of the TCPA is being extended to cover changes in technology.
For a more detailed legal analysis, check here.