Yahoo Loses Bid To Dismiss Text-Spam Battle Over 'Welcome' Messages

Siding against Yahoo, a federal judge in Illinois has rejected the company's bid to throw out a class-action lawsuit accusing it of sending unsolicited SMS messages to some Sprint customers, court records reveal.

U.S. District Court Judge Manish Shah in Illinois entered an order on Monday denying Yahoo's request to dismiss the lawsuit. Shah hasn't issued a written opinion spelling out his reasons.

The legal dispute dates to 2014, when Sprint customer Rachel Johnson sued Yahoo (soon to be acquired by Verizon) for allegedly violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits companies from using automated dialers to text people without their consent. The battle centers on a Yahoo Messenger feature that converts instant messages into text messages. Johnson alleged in court papers that she received at least two messages through that feature. One of the messages came from other users, while the other -- a "Welcome" message from Yahoo -- explained the first one. The lawsuit deals only with the "Welcome" message.



Shah previously ruled that Johnson could proceed with a class-action on behalf of Sprint users who received the messages.

Last month, Yahoo asked Shah to reconsider that ruling in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision involving the data broker Spokeo. The Supreme Court ruled in the matter that an Illinois resident couldn't proceed with allegations that Spokeo displayed incorrect information unless he could show the errors caused a "concrete" injury.

Yahoo said that decision also prevents Johnson from proceeding with her case, arguing she wasn't harmed by the messages.

"There was no incremental charge for the receipt of any text, including the Welcome Message -- neither the subscriber nor Johnson was charged for Johnson’s receipt of the Welcome Message," Yahoo wrote in its court papers. The company added that the phone belonged to Johnson's employer, who had a plan that allowed unlimited text messages.

It's not yet clear whether Shah will issue a written opinion explaining why he ruled against Yahoo.

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