Last week, a proposed class action settlement was published detailing the terms under which LinkedIn will settle various claims of “spam”-related violations in connection with its “Add Connections” feature.
What were the claims against LinkedIn and what are the terms of settlement?
The settlement agreement, which must still be approved by the District Court Judge, calls for LinkedIn to contribute at least $13 million to a fund for consumer relief, as well as for certain changes to LinkedIn’s policies and procedures. These changes will include better informing users how its “Add Connections” feature functions, and further changes to allow users to more easily opt out of it.
LinkedIn users first sued the company in 2013, claiming that the social media giant’s “Add Connections” feature violated their right of publicity and was an unfair business practice under California law. The spam lawsuit claimed that the feature, which provided LinkedIn with permission to access users’ email address books, harmed their professional reputations by sending out multiple emails to their contacts, reminding the recipients to join their personal LinkedIn networks. The road to settlement was paved last year, as the lawsuit cleared a key hurdle when the U.S. District Court Judge denied LinkedIn’s motion to dismiss the case. The District Court found that while the initial email may not have harmed users’ rights, the second and third email invitations did, by allowing email recipients to think that the LinkedIn users are the type of people who spam their contacts or are unable to take the hint that their contacts did not want to join their LinkedIn network.
Avoiding Spam Lawsuits and Spam-Related Liability
LinkedIn’s experience demonstrates the substantial costs that advertisers, marketers and their affiliates may be exposed to in connection with online or email marketing campaigns. Here, LinkedIn even received permission from its users to send out the allegedly offending email messages, but still ultimately paid a significant price in litigation and settlement costs, by pushing the bounds of acceptable email marketing, at least according to one District Court Judge. As always, it is critical to engage experienced email marketing counsel in order to implement the practices and procedures necessary to prevent the sending of unlawful commercial email.