Lyft, Inc., a company that puts consumers in touch with drivers for a ride-sharing program, was recently sued in a class-action lawsuit over text messages generated by its smartphone application. In order to request a ride from a Lyft driver, a user must download the application and enter a valid telephone number and credit card. In connection with this application, consumers are able to invite their friends to download the Lyft application and use the service themselves. The application permits the user to invite their friends by populating a list of the user’s contacts and then allowing the user to select which of his or her “friends” receive a text message.
According to the complaint, these text messages are sent by Lyft’s computer systems via an automated dialing system. Additionally, the complaint alleges that these text messages constitute unsolicited advertising messages since Lyft pays up to $25 to the user for each “friend” who downloads the application and subsequently uses the Lyft service. The plaintiff asserts that Lyft’s system generates commercial advertisements and, in an automated manner, transmits these advertisements as unsolicited text messages to lists of cellular telephone numbers in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the Washington Commercial Electronic Mail Act. The plaintiff is seeking damages, including statutory damages of $500 per violation pursuant to the TCPA and $500 per violation pursuant to the Washington state law.
TIP: This case serves as another reminder that under the amended TCPA regulations, prior express written consent is required to send marketing text messages. Our previous post on the recent updates to the TCPA regulations, which describes the specific requirements for obtaining prior express written consent, can be found here.