The Donald Trump presidential campaign has been charged with violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending unwanted political text messages to cellular phones.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was passed in 1991 under President George H.W. Bush to protect the public from receiving unwanted telemarketer calls. Today, it equally applies to unsolicited text messages. Marketers must receive prior express written consent from their clients before texting them and adding them to their subscription lists.
Like many other organizations that use SMS marketing, the Donald Trump presidential campaign allows supporters to sign up for text message updates by texting an SMS short code. Supporters must supply their zip code in order to be signed up for news from the campaign.
In two separate class action lawsuits, two men from the greater Chicago area are claiming that the campaign texted them without their consent. Both received March texts from the Trump campaign that read, “Reply YES to subscribe to Donald J. Trump for President. Your subscription will help Make America Great Again! Msg&data rates may apply.” The two lawsuits are seeking a minimum of $500 in statutory damages for each person who received a similarly unwanted text.
David Roberts from Aurora, Illinois, assumes that the campaign received his number from Eventbrite, which he used to sign up for a Trump campaign rally in Chicago. Though he was required to provide his cellphone number on the Eventbrite website, he was never asked to consent to text messages by the Trump campaign. Joshua Thorne of Cook County never gave the Trump campaign his cellphone number and believes that the campaign sent the text messages to thousands of randomly generated numbers.
Thorne’s attorney, Joseph Siprut of Siprut PC, has stated that “based on the information we have at this point, we’re very confident that a violation was made and we intend to pursue it to the gates of hell.” As of this writing, the Trump campaign has yet to comment.
The Trump campaign is not the only organization that has recently come under fire for potential TCPA violations. Ridesharing company Uber is currently fighting a recent class action lawsuit, as are Caribou Coffee and Lyft, one of Uber’s competitors. We recommend checking out our SMS compliance page for tips about gaining express written consent from clients.