He’s riding a wave of primary victories to a likely presidential nomination, but Donald J. Trump ran into some legal turbulence this week.
On Monday, an Illinois man named Joshua Thorne filed a class action suit against Mr. Trump’s campaign, alleging that it violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) with unsolicited text messages that read, “Reply YES to subscribe to Donald J. Trump for President. Your subscription will help Make America Great Again! Msg&data rates may apply.”
The next day, a man named David Roberts filed a similar suit that also alleges that the Trump campaign acquired Mr. Roberts’ phone number from an Event Brite page for a Trump campaign rally. Mr. Roberts says that although he provided his phone number, he did not offer his express written consent to receive political messages.
Political Messages and Robocalls Not Exempt from TCPA
Contrary to popular misconception, political messages and robocalls are not exempt from the TCPA. The FCC recently issued a reminder that political campaigns are also subject to TCPA provisions, albeit with some exceptions.
Most notably, robocalls, autodials, and prerecorded messages from political campaigns are permitted to landlines, provided the caller identifies him/herself at the start of the call and allows the recipient to opt out from future calls.
But these kinds of calls and messages are prohibited for cellphones and other mobile devices, with three exceptions:
- Calls made for emergency purposes
- Calls made with the prior express consent of the recipient
- Calls made to collect debts “owed to or guaranteed by the United States”
The FCC also emphasized to political robocallers that failure to comply with the TCPA “may subject them to enforcement action, including monetary forfeitures as high as $16,000 per violation.”
Facebook Sued for Badgering Consumers
Facebook—which, like Mr. Trump, continues to best its rivals—is not immune to the TCPA, either. A Washington, D.C. woman named Christine Holt recently filed a class action suit against the social media titan after she received a series of text messages encouraging her to update her Facebook profile and check her friends’ updates.
The only problem: Ms. Holt isn’t on Facebook, and never provided consent to receive any such communication from the company.
Apparently the messages were meant for the previous owner of her phone number, but that is unlikely to prove a strong legal defense. Ms. Holt’s attorney says she is one of thousands of consumers who receive this unwanted solicitation from Facebook.
“Notably, new owners are not provided any explicit means to contact Facebook to make the messages stop,” the complaint states. “In some instances, the messages do not even identify ‘Facebook’ as the sender, and some consumers—having no prior relationship with Facebook—may be completely unaware that Facebook is the sender.”
TCPA Cases—and Settlements—On the Rise
From 2010 to 2015, the number of TCPA-related cases increased almost tenfold, by 940%.
The amounts of the settlements have soared as well. The largest and most famous TCPA settlement was in August 2014, when Capital One (and three collection agencies) paid $75.5 million to end a class action suit that arose after Capital One used an autodialer to call consumers’ cellphones.
A few months later, Wells Fargo settled a similar suit for $14.5 million after it used autodialers and prerecorded messages to try and collect on consumer credit card accounts between 2009 and 2014.
Other major TCPA-related settlements include the following:
- 2015: AmeriCredit – $6.5-8.5 million (autodialing, prerecorded messages)
- 2015: Life Time Fitness – $15 million (text messages)
- March 2015: Walgreen – $11 million (robocalls to cellphones)
- March 2015: Millward Brown – $11 million (autodials and prerecorded messages to cellphones)
Most recently, Portfolio Recovery Associates (a debt collection agency) agreed to pay $18 million to settle a suit over their autodialing consumers without their consent.
You May Be Eligible for a Lawsuit
If you receive unwanted calls or messages from political campaigns or other solicitors, our attorneys may be able to help you file a claim for compensation. We assist people who are wrongly contacted by a company looking for a different person, as well as those who were contacted after requesting that a company stop calling. For each unwanted call, a consumer may be able to collect between $500 and $1,500.
If you have questions about your rights under the TCPA, contact us today and fill out a free, no-obligation case review.