In a pair of class action suits filed the same day, Google and its subsidiary Slide, as well as Twilio, are facing allegations that their group texting services violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Disco, a group texting service created by Google’s Slide unit, allows a user to create a group and send texts to up to 99 people at the same time by providing his or her full name and cell phone number. According to the complaint, the service does not require users to provide consent prior to creating a group or receiving messages, so group members receive unsolicited text messages from the defendants and others in violation of the TCPA.
Plaintiff Bret Lusskin alleged that he received approximately 106 text messages in a single day from the Disco service, which “became so overwhelming that it effectively ‘jammed’ [his] cell phone, rendering it completely inoperable until the flow of messages subsided.”
Because group members can reply to the entire group, “a consumer could be subjected to hundreds of text messages before having an opportunity to opt out,” according to Lusskin’s complaint.
Defendant Twilio offers a similar product, GroupMe, where groups of up to 25 individuals can be created for texting en masse. While the suit notes that a group member will eventually be removed from the group if he or she does not respond, that removal occurs only after receipt of 15 to 30 unwanted messages.
“The overall result of this software design is that thousands of consumers receive text messages from and through GroupMe’s service that they neither consented to nor wanted,” according to plaintiff Brian Glauser’s complaint.
Both suits seek to treble the $500 statutory damages for each violation of the TCPA, as well as an injunction.
To read the complaint in Lusskin v. Google, click here.
To read the complaint in Glauser v. Twilio, click here.
Why it matters: The courts and the Federal Communications Commission have uniformly applied the TCPA which requires prior, express consent before sending a message. The new lawsuits offer a slight twist, as the users, not the service, actually send the texts. However, both suits emphasize that the defendants provide “the application program interface, the phone numbers, and equipment that facilitates and transmits all text messages” sent by the service and play “an integral role in the delivery, receipt and general transmission of each text message at issue.”