Uber Sued in Class Action for Alleged Text-Message Spamming
A class action filed against Uber Technologies Inc. (Uber) alleges that the San Francisco-based company has been spamming consumer cellphones with text messages.
The class action, filed December 2015, claims Uber sent unsolicited text messages to consumers without their express prior consent.
If these allegations are determined to be factual, Uber may be found in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a federal statute that restricts telemarketers and debt collectors in their use of auto-dialers and pre-recorded voice messages when communicating with home phone lines, cellular phones, text messages, and fax machines.
Plaintiffs from Missouri, New Hampshire, and Oregon allege that they have received automatically dialed text messages from Uber on personal cellphones without permission on multiple occasions. James Lathrop is among the plaintiffs listed in the class action and claims that Uber sent “approximately 19 automated text messages,” distributed using “approximately 13 different numbers.”
Uber has since filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming that the messages were not in violation of the TCPA, but were “recruiting materials.” The company’s attorneys have taken the position that the messages were sent to potential Uber drivers as hiring solicitations, not advertisements, and that they do not fall under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Whether the text messages were solicitations or advertisements would not make any difference, according to consumer attorney Craig Thor Kimmel of CreditLaw.com, who says, “For Uber to prevail, they must establish that prior consent for the messages was given by each consumer, otherwise they are in violation of the TCPA.”
The lawyers in the case observed that, in separate litigation about employment benefits, Uber claimed it was “merely a software company,” and that its drivers aren’t considered employees.
“In Uber’s eyes, drivers are every bit as much its customers as its passengers,” says the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Hassan Zavareei.
Uber’s attorneys respond that Uber has “consistently described its drivers as independent contractors, not customers.”
The class action seeks statutory damages from of $500 for each violation of the TCPA over the last four years, statutory damages of $1,500 for each knowing or willful violation of the TCPA over the last four years, actual and punitive damages, a permanent injunction prohibiting Uber from sending text messages through an auto-dialer without recipients’ prior express consent, attorney’s fees, litigation expenses, and the costs of the instant suit.