Yahoo has been hit with a
federal lawsuit lawsuit for allegedly sending SMS messages to the wrong person.
Philadelphia resident Bill Dominguez says Yahoo sent him thousands of unwanted SMS messages after he purchased a used smartphone from T-Mobile in December of 2011. Dominguez says in his lawsuit that he believes the previous phone's owner arranged to receive SMS alerts from Yahoo whenever he received emails.
Dominguez -- who doesn't have a Yahoo email address -- says that at one point he was receiving between 50 and 60 SMS alerts a day informing him of new emails. Dominguez says he asked Yahoo to stop sending him the text messages, but was told by a company supervisor that only the phone's former owner could arrange to stop the texts. Dominguez says he tried to explain to Yahoo that he doesn't know the former owner and has no way to contact him.
He says that at one point he threatened to resort to litigation. The Yahoo supervisor Dominguez was speaking with allegedly replied: “So sue me.”
Dominguez received 4,700 SMS text alerts from Yahoo in the last five months alone, he says in his complaint, filed last week in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “Defendant does not have an effective method for stopping Mail Alerts from being sent to the cellular phones of new owners who have not consented to receipt of such messages when the phone companies recycle a phone number,” he alleges.
Dominguez contends that Yahoo is violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits companies
from using automated dialing systems to send SMS messages to consumers who haven't consented. That law provides for damages of up to $500 per violation.
Dominguez is seeking class-action status. A Yahoo spokesperson said the company doesn't comment on legal matters.
A federal appeals court in Chicago recently ruled that a debt collector who sent text messages to the wrong recipients could be sued for violating the TCPA -- which applies to voice calls as well as text messages. In that case, the recipients who sued were using reassigned phone numbers; the subscribers who previously had those numbers apparently consented to receive the calls.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals likened the recipients in that case to “bystanders,” noting that they were now “out of pocket the cost of the airtime minutes,” and also have “had to listen to a lot of useless voicemail.”