The Los Angeles Clippers are in the news again: this time for an ill-advised promotional text message marketing campaign. Fans filed a class action suit against the pro basketball team in February 2013, after the team sent them text messages without the fans’ express written consent to receive them, in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The case was brought in the Central District of California and captioned Friedman v. LAC Basketball Club, Inc., 2:13-cv-00818-CBM-AN.
In the complaint, it was alleged that while attending a Clippers game, plaintiffs learned they could send messages directly to the scoreboard from their phones by texting a designated number. The announcement alerting them of this fact, however, did not disclose that the Clippers would store the numbers and subsequently use them to advertise promotions. According to the plaintiffs, therefore, when they received promotional text messages from the Clippers, this violated the TCPA’s rules against text messaging consumers who do not first expressly opt in to receive the texts.
In June 2014, the Clippers sought a judgment on the pleadings, arguing that the TCPA was not violated because plaintiffs consented to having the team send them text messages by virtue of their texting the scoreboard. Moreover, the Clippers argued that the plaintiffs only received a single text message, which provided a method for opting out of future communications. The court denied the Clippers’ motion, unfortunately without explanation.
Perhaps to avoid any further bad press and to ensure that seats are filled for the upcoming season, the Clippers have agreed to settle the suit with game tickets. Although the team maintains that its conduct was permissible, it agreed in the settlement not to send any text messages without express consent for two years, and class members will be given the choice of receiving either two tickets to a home game in October or one ticket and a $20 credit for merchandise. Tickets alone won't do the trick for the plaintiffs’ attorneys, who will receive $600,000 in fees and costs.