'From' Lines Are Accurate If Email Links To Advertiser Site, Judge Rules

Direct-to-consumer (D2C) firm Digital Media Solutions (DMS) won a victory when a California judge ruled that the firm had not misled consumers or violated state law by sending marketing emails.

Judge Ethan P. Schulman, of the Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco, ruled on July 22 that the firm had not violated Section 17529.5 of the California Business & Professions Code by sending misleading "from" and subject lines.

Rather, the emails complied with an earlier decision on the same issue because the advertiser was identified via a hyperlink to its website, Schulman wrote.

Lexology.com writes that the decision has the "potential to profoundly impact the email marketing industry."

The case was filed last December by a class of five consumers. Referring to DMS as a “spamvertiser,” they charged that the firm sent 282 unsolicited emails for auto warranty products and asked for $1,000 per email in damages and attorney’s fees.

The complaint alleged that the firm sent emails with the subject line “Please confirm your extended warranty plan,” and a "from" line reading “Vehicle Service Plan,” followed by an email address. Both were misleading and violated state codes, it said. 

However, Schulman wrote that when the defendants clicked in the body of the emails, a link took them to the Platinum Auto Warranty website — “thus, the  plaintiffs “cannot plausibly allege that defendant attempted to conceal its identity.”

The judge also noted that email subject lines are governed by a separate part of the state code.

According to court papers, the email reads as follows:

  Your Vehicle’s Warranty May Be Expiring Within 28 Days::

  View Your warranty options below and see you can prevent car trouble from breaking your bank 

  Protect yourself from costly vehicle repairs. Without protection, auto issues could lead to severe financial hardship. 

In a hearing, the plaintiffs alleged that Transparent Auto Warranty, purportedly of Boca Raton, Florida, is an affiliated company of DMS. However, they do not appear to have proven that, and have been given 20 days to amend their complaint as necessary.  

In a recent announcement, DMS said it specializes in direct-to-consumer, digital and multichannel marketing.


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