Handing a decisive victory to the mobile shopping app Shopkick, a federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit alleging that the company's "invite your friends" feature violated a text-spam law.
U.S. District Court Judge Maxine Chesney in the Northern District of California ruled this week that Shopkick's promotional invite-friends tool was essentially the same one used by TextMe, which was approved last month by the Federal Communications Commission.
The FCC addressed TextMe's invite-friends mechanism as part of a larger order clarifying the Telephone Consumer Protection Act -- an anti-robocall law that also prohibits companies from using automated dialers to send unsolicited SMS ads.
The agency said in its July order that TextMe's tool doesn't itself "send" invitations to users' friends. Instead, according to the FCC, TextMe's platform asks users for permission to access their contacts, and also asks for permission to invite their friends.
"The FCC found that, even though a provider of an app controls the content of invitational text messages that are, in essence, advertisements for the app, the provider is not deemed to be the sender of those text messages where users of the app must make a series of 'affirmative choices' in order to cause the messages to be sent," Chesney wrote.
The ruling disposed of a lawsuit that was filed in May of 2014 by Zak Huricks and Trista Robinson. They alleged in a potential class-action that they received unsolicited text messages inviting them to download the app, which gives shoppers rewards points and notifies them about deals.
"Hey, just gave you 50 bonus points on shopkick -- a cool new app that rewards you for shopping. Check it out," the messages said.
It later emerged that Zak and Huricks received those messages because they were Facebook friends with a Shopkick user who authorized the invitations.
Shopkick argued earlier this year that it was entitled to summary judgment. "All text message invitations to non-shopkick-users, in every version of the shopkick app, are initiated and carried out in this fashion by a shopkick user," the company wrote.
Chesney agreed with the company, writing that Zak and Huricks "failed to demonstrate a material difference" between Shopkick's feature and that offered by TextMe.