In its Memorandum Opinion and Order dated November 9, 2012, the US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in Pinkard v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. held that under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), when an individual discloses his or her cellular phone number to a business, that individual is deemed to have expressly consented to receive telephone calls and text messages from that business unless he or she has expressly limited the scope of such consent at the time of the disclosure.
The FTC published on September 5, 2012 guidelines for mobile application developers to assist them observe truth-in-advertising and basic privacy principles when marketing their applications.…
In a year when behavioral advertising was already expected to be at the top of the hot button privacy issues list, on January 13, 2008, the Center for Digital Democracy (“CDT”) and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (“US PIRG”) filed a document with the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) urging the FTC to investigate online mobile marketing practices, to take new actions to stop mobile marketing activities that “abuse consumer rights,” and to recommend new federal legislation and enhanced enforcement power for the FTC in this area. The document expands on the groups’ concerns about online behavioral advertising generally – the delivery of ads tailored to consumers’ interests based on browsing habits and/or consumer demographics – to the mobile space. In doing so the groups cite the potential for even greater consumer harm because of the additional possibility of location-based targeting linked to a cell phone or other mobile device that is typically tied to a single consumer who uses it for multiple applications, including voice, video and data.
On September 10, 2008, Timberland Company, an outdoor clothing and shoe merchant, along with co-defendant ad agencies GSI Commerce Inc. (“GSI”) and AirIt2Me Inc. (“AirIt2Me”), settled charges brought under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) arising from unsolicited text messages advertising Timberland’s holiday sale. Pursuant to the settlement, Timberland must employ best practices in future marketing, and must pay $7 million into a fund for distribution to the class. Prior to any future mobile marketing campaign, GSI agreed to circulate to its marketing personnel a copy of the Mobile Marketing Association’s Consumer Best Practices guidelines, and to establish meaningful training and compliance checks in connection with those guidelines. Additionally, the defendants must pay class counsel a maximum amount of $1,750,000. The settlement has been agreed to by all parties, but is still subject to final approval by the court.
Many B2C companies are beginning to explore marketing to consumers’ wireless devices using text messaging (“SMS,” or “short message service”) and MMS messaging (“Multi-media Messaging Service”). They may even target their promotions based on where the recipient is physically located using the wireless device’s GPS technology. They also may target their promotions to teens and tweens. What legal issues should companies be aware of as they navigate through this relatively new area?