Judge Allows Path To Appeal Text-Spam Ruling

A federal judge has authorized Path to appeal a pro-consumer ruling in a battle over an unsolicited invitation to join the service.

“An immediate appeal may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation,” Judge Manish Shah in the Northern District of Illinois wrote in an order authorizing Path's appeal.

The lawsuit dates to 2013, when Illinois resident Kevin Sterk alleged that he received a text message stating that another person -- Path user Elizabeth Howell -- wanted to show him photos on the service. The text also contained a link to a site where Sterk could register to join the mobile social networking service.

Sterk, who is seeking class-action status, argued that Path violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending him the message. That law prohibits companies from using automated dialers to send SMS ads without the recipients' permission.



Last year, Path asked U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan to throw out the case on the ground that its system doesn't use “automated dialers.” The company said its system only sends SMS messages to people whose phone numbers were provided by users. Path contended that “human intervention” -- users' uploading of their friends' numbers -- means its system isn't an automated dialer.

Der-Yeghiayan ruled against Path, prompting the company to ask for permission to take an immediate appeal. Shah, who recently took over the case from Der-Yeghiayan, granted that motion on Friday.

Shah said that an appellate ruling addressing the main contested question -- whether Path's system is an automated dialer -- could dispose of the lawsuit. “The course of the litigation depends on the interpretation of automatic telephone dialing system,” Shah wrote.

Shah directed Path to apply for an appeal within 10 days to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. That court is then free to accept or reject the case.

Path isn't the only company accused of trying to grow its network by spamming people. Lyft also was hit with a potential class-action lawsuit for allegedly running an “aggressive marketing campaign” that sends people unwanted SMS messages.That complaint, filed late last month by Washington state resident Kenneth Wright, centers on Lyft's “invite friends” program, which allows Lyft users to send SMS invitations to their contacts.

Lyft and Wright have agreed to try and resolve their battle through mediation, according to papers filed late last week with U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman in the Western District of Washington.



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