A Florida man claims Facebook broke a federal law by sending unauthorized text messages about friends' birthdays, and is seeking up to $1,500 per message on behalf of himself and other Facebook users.
In a proposed class action suit filed Friday, Colin Brickman claims the Facebook (fb) birthday texts violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a law that limits telemarketing and automatic dialing systems.
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According to the lawsuit, Facebook never obtained permission to send texts to Brickman's cell phone, but nonetheless sent a message that read, “Today is Jim Stewart’s birthday. Reply to post a wish on his Timeline or reply with 1 to post ‘Happy Birthday!’”
Brickman claims such birthday messages, which Facebook sends to users who have given the company their phone number, are a form of marketing that is only permitted with a user's express written consent.
"Facebook sent bulk and impersonal text messages by an autodialer to cell phones like Plaintiff’s, using standard response prompts. Every prompt solicits the receiver to engage on Facebook. This lawsuit is for the thousands of persons who did NOT give Facebook prior express consent," say the complaint.
In an email, a spokesperson for Facebook declined to comment on the lawsuit.
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If Facebook can't prove it had permission to send the messages, the social network could be on the hook for millions in damages. Under the telemarketing law, consumers can seek $500 per violation or $1,500 if they can show the violation was willful.
If the case goes forward, Facebook would not be the first company whose text messages have run afoul of the telemarketing law. In the last year, Western Union (wu) agreed to pay $8.5 million to resolve a class action over unsolicited text messages while Uber and Yahoo (yhoo) are currently in court over similar lawsuits.
The Federal Communications Commission has also become more aggressive about text-based marketing, posting a notice last year to remind consumers that unauthorized texts are illegal except in the case of an emergency.
You can read the complaint for yourself below.