Fuel giant pays $8 million to class members who received at least one text message
Matthew Gottlieb thought that placing his number on the National Do Not Call Registry would protect him from intrusive phone advertising. So when he received three texts from fuel refiner and transporter CITGO, he felt empowered to file a class action claim under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
Gottlieb, a resident of Palm Beach, filed the action in the Southern District of Florida in November 2016. In the complaint, he alleged that he received three separate text messages urging him to sign up for the Club CITGO mobile application, which he alleges were attempts to convince him to make purchases from CITGO gas stations.
The action claims that CITGO sent related text messages to more than 90,000 other people.
Gottlieb claimed that he never offered his phone number to CITGO, and that he never consented to calls from or any other attempt at contact by the company. He had been listed as a registrant with the National Do Not Call Registry for eight years prior to the texts.
In the action, Gottlieb claimed that CITGO violated the TCPA’s express consent provisions and used automatic calling technology to push its products and offers. He also alleged that the company invaded his personal privacy and disrupted his daily life, and he advanced several claims regarding his cellphone, including battery drainage and loss of use – a clear attempt to establish harm for standing purposes.
After two rounds of mediation, the action was settled last month. CITGO denies any liability. The $8 million will be shared by a class consisting of anyone who received at least one CITGO marketing text. CITGO also agreed to pay a separate $300,000 in cost and fees.
The agreement is the latest in a string of recent TCPA settlements by a variety of companies, including SolarCity Corp. and Uber Technologies. Class action lawyers like TCPA claims because the compliance requirements are arduous and complex, the law provides for significant per-text statutory damages, and many, many noncompliant texts may be involved. Thus, marketers who use calls or texts to provide informational or promotional messages should ensure they understand and comply with all applicable regulatory requirements.