In a defeat for Best Buy, a federal appeals court ruled this week that the company violated a telemarketing law by making robocalls that directed consumers to an ecommerce site.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Best Buy's argument that the calls were informational and therefore, shouldn't be considered advertising.
"These calls were aimed at
encouraging listeners to engage in future commercial transactions with Best Buy to purchase its goods," the court ruled. "They constituted unsolicited advertisements, telephone solicitations, and
telemarketing, and were prohibited."
The ruling reversed a decision in favor of Best Buy issued last year by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones in Seattle.
The case stems from a series of robocalls made in 2008 and 2009 to Rainier, Wash., resident Michael Chesbro. He said that the calls -- which started shortly after he purchased a computer from Best Buy in 2008 -- advised him to visit the store's Web site in order to redeem his "Reward Zone" points.
Chesbro said he attempted to opt out of receiving calls and when that failed, complained to the Washington Attorney General. When the calls continued, he filed a potential class-action lawsuit in federal court in Seattle, where he alleged that Best Buy violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act. That law bans companies from using automated dialing systems for marketing calls, without consumers' consent.
The trial judge ruled last September that Best Buy's robocalls weren't covered by the federal statute, "because no property, good or service was advertised or even mentioned during the call."
But the appellate court disagreed. "We approach the problem with a measure of common sense," the judges wrote. "The calls encouraged the listener to make future purchases at Best Buy. Neither the statute nor the regulations require an explicit mention of a good, product, or service where the implication is clear from the context."
Best Buy declined to comment on the matter.