Citibank Prevails In Text-Spam Lawsuit

Spam-on-Smartphone

A judge has dismissed a potential class-action lawsuit alleging that Citibank violated a consumer protection law by texting a user to confirm that he wanted to opt out of receiving future messages. "Imposition of liability ... for a single, confirmatory text message would constitute an impermissibly 'absurd and unforeseen result,'" U.S. District Court Judge Irma Gonzalez wrote in a decision issued last week.

The ruling threw out a lawsuit by a consumer, Boqdan Ryabyshchuck, who alleged that Citibank violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act. That law prohibits companies from using an automated dialing service to send SMS messages to people without first obtaining their consent.

The statute provides for damages of up to $1,500 per violation. Ryabyshchuck alleged that he contacted Citibank in May of 2011 to apply for a credit card. He gave his cell phone number to the bank as part of the application, according to the court papers. A few days later, he received an SMS message instructing him to call Citi Cards.

That message said he could opt out of future text messages by replying "stop." He did so, spurring Citibank to send him a final message confirming that it would no longer send him texts. Ryabyshchuck then filed suit in the Southern District of California, where he unsuccessfully argued that the final confirmatory text message was illegal.

News of Gonzalez's decision was reported by Venkat Balasubramani on the Technology & Marketing Law Blog. Gonzalez's decision to toss the lawsuit is in line with a ruling issued earlier this year by U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Huff in a case against Taco Bell. In that case, Huff wrote that imposing liability for a confirmatory text message "would contravene public policy and the spirit of the statute-prevention of unsolicited telemarketing in a bulk format."

Jason Ibey, the consumer who sued Taco Bell, recently filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Facebook, MySpace and Twitter also faced similar lawsuits last last year. But those cases were all withdrawn shortly after they were filed, and prior to any rulings about whether sending a text in order to confirm an opt-out request violated the law.

 

Tags: legal, spam
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