Text-Spam Case Against Google Moves Forward

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A federal judge has rejected a request by Google to delay a potential class-action lawsuit alleging that its social apps company Slide violated a consumer protection law by sending SMS messages without the recipients' consent.

Google had asked U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, Calif. to stay the lawsuit pending a decision by the Federal Communications Commission about how to interpret the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Rogers said in a written opinion that delaying the lawsuit against Google was not appropriate. "The court is not convinced that the FCC has agreed to issue a ruling, let alone issue a ruling on an expedited basis."

The lawsuit -- brought by Nicole Pimental and Jessica Franklin -- alleges that Disco (Slide's group messaging app) violates the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by using an automated dialing service to send SMS messages to people without first obtaining their consent. Disco allows individuals to send group texts to up to 99 people at one time. Recipients can opt out, but can't prevent the initial message from arriving.

The service also allegedly sends recipients an introductory ad informing them that they can avoid text-message charges by downloading an app.

Google earlier asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed because Slide's app was not covered by the statute on the grounds that the app doesn't fit within the definition of an "automated dialing service." Google also argued that the messages were protected free speech. Rogers rejected both of those arguments in March.

Several weeks after that ruling, Google asked to delay the case pending an FCC review of how to apply the TCPA to text messaging. That review came about after Skype's GroupMe sought a ruling from regulators that its texting app shouldn't be considered an automated dialing service. GroupMe also argues that intermediaries such as itself should be able to rely on users' statements that the people they text have consented to receiving messages.

But Pimental and Franklin successfully opposed that request, arguing that a delay would only provide Google with "a means of prolonging this litigation endlessly."

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