Wenner Media, which publishes Rolling Stone, Men's Journal, US Weekly and other magazines, has been hit with a potential class-action lawsuit for allegedly sending SMS-spam to potential subscribers.
In a complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Karen Schrock of Indiana alleges that Wenner Media and the subscription marketing firm Consumer Benefit Services violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending her unsolicited messages with the purpose of selling magazine subscriptions. That law prohibits companies from using automatic telephone dialing systems to make calls to cell phones unless the owners have consented.
The messages themselves allegedly told recipients that they had won something -- like a $200 shopping voucher -- and provided a telephone number for them to call to claim their prize. When people called to claim their gift, they were allegedly given a sales pitch for publications like US Weekly.
"Unlike more conventional advertisements, SMS calls, and particularly wireless spam, can actually cost their recipients money, because cell phone users must frequently pay their respective wireless service providers either for each text message call they receive or incur an usage allocation deduction to their text plan, regardless of whether or not the message is authorized," Schrock alleges in her complaint. She is asking for at least $500 per violation of the federal telephone-marketing law.
Several other companies that have been sued for allegedly sending SMS spam have attempted to argue that the telephone law doesn't apply to text messages, but such arguments generally have not succeeded, says Internet law expert Venkat Balasubramani of Seattle. "Virtually every case that has looked at the issue has said the TCPA applies," he says.
Last year, the influential 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that book publisher Simon & Schuster might have violated the telephone law by allegedly sending unsolicited text messages promoting Stephen King's "Cell."
Wenner Media and Consumer Benefit Services have not yet responded to Online Media Daily's request for comment.