Amazon, Google, Other Tech Companies Urge Court To Lift New Text-Spam Rules

An organization that represents Silicon Valley's largest Web companies is asking a court to vacate tough new text-spam rules.

"A world where a business cannot engage in legitimate, desired communications with the people who use its services is a world incompatible with the principles embodied in the First Amendment and hostile to the innovation that is the lifeblood of significant parts of today’s economy," the Internet Association says in a friend-of-the-court brief filed this week with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The group, which includes Amazon, Google, Facebook and PayPal, is backing a request by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others to vacate new rules implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. That law prohibits companies from using automated dialers to send text messages without recipients' consent.

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In June, the FCC issued set of declaratory rulings that tightened some of the rule's requirements. Among other changes, the FCC said in June that companies can only send one autodialed text (or make one robocall) to a reassigned number. If companies continue to send SMS messages to reassigned numbers, they could face damages of up to $1,500 per message.

The FCC also defined "autodialers" in ways that appear to cover many of the texting systems used by Web companies.

The Internet Association says those changes leave its members facing the threat of significant legal liability. "The Commission’s Order forces companies who want to engage in desired communications to navigate the perilous passage between Scylla and Charybdis: speaking with their customers with the threat of TCPA liability looming or refuse to provide the information customers want and lose market share," the Internet Association writes.

The group argues that the FCC's one-call limit to reassigned numbers is not a "workable solution," given estimates that 100,000 cell phone numbers are reassigned to new users daily. "Companies who have received consent to communicate with their users or customers ... may potentially be racking up significant statutory liability without even knowing it," the Internet Association says.

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