Arizona judges handed a significant ruling Tuesday for cell phone users, saying companies can’t use computers to send out thousands of text messages to drum up business.
In the first decision of its kind, at least in Arizona, the state Court of Appeals said this kind of bulk text messaging violates federal telemarketing laws.
The judges rejected arguments by Acacia Mortgage attorneys that the law
only bars merchants from using autodialers to make voice phone calls.
Tuesday’s decision is more than a victory for Rodney Joffe, who went to court after getting a couple of these unsolicited text messages. It opens the door for Joffe to pursue a class-action lawsuit to recover damages on behalf of some 90,000 other Arizonans who got the same messages.
Joffe sued, noting federal law makes it illegal to use automatic dialers to call a cell phone or pager. He sought $55,000 in damages for harassment. Acacia’s attorneys responded that the company was not making "calls.’’ But appellate Judge Patricia Norris, writing for the unanimous court, said federal lawmakers did not write the statute that narrowly.
She said the nuisance is the same whether Acacia used its computers to autodial cell phone users or simply send them text messages. In fact, she noted, recipients may have to pay their cellular providers for the unwanted message.