An Illinois man has filed a class action lawsuit against the Trump campaign for sending him and thousands of others an unsolicited and unwanted robotext. According to the lawsuit, initiated by complainant Joshua Thorne, the campaign has violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by sending out the SMS texts using an automatic phone dialing system (aka robocalls).
A Major Goof
The TCPA, passed by Congress in 1991, with an effective date of December 1992, makes very specific provisions for robocalls and robotexts. Among provisions of the law that relate to this lawsuit are the following.
- Politicians, unaffiliated campaign groups, charities, unions, and commercial businesses may make robocalls to wired, landline phones.
- Robocalls may not be made to cell phones without the prior consent of the recipients because there may be user charges at the other end.
- Consumers may sign-up for a “do-not-call” registry with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but political campaigns are exempt from this registry.
Some states prohibit political robocalls of any kind or have placed additional restrictions on them. Illinois, the state in which this lawsuit has been initiated, is not one with further restrictions.
Still, in sending a robot text to random cell phone owners, it looks like the Trump campaign has made a major goof and is in violation of standing federal law.
The Text Message In Question
On March 4, the Trump campaign sent out a robotext that said, “Reply YES to subscribe to Donald J. Trump for President. Your subscription will help Make America Great Again! Msg&data rates may apply.”
Trump himself may not even be aware that the SMS was sent. His personal contact with voters has primarily been via Twitter, a social media platform he uses regularly for comments and rants. In fact, using social media has become a much larger factor in political campaigns than robocalls.
Private Bulk Message Company Used
The campaign used a bulk-messaging software company, Tatango, which generates random phone numbers for automated robocalls. According to a spokesman for the company, Tatango also provides a free guide to its clients, giving a detailed summary of the TCPA law along with the warning that violating this law can result in a $1,500 fine per call. Someone in the campaign must not have read the fine print.
In the Trump campaign’s case, this could amount to a hefty dollar amount.
Details Of The Filed Complaint
The lawsuit’s basis is that the messages were sent without a prior consent of the recipients.
“At no point has Plaintiff ever voluntarily provided [plaintiff’s phone number] to Trump for President…At no point has Plaintiff ever requested Trump for President to send him text messages to [plaintiff’s phone number].”
The suit goes on to state the messages were sent “en masse to thousands of wireless telephone numbers or randomly generated telephone numbers.” Only those numbers that are attached to cell phones can be a part of the suit, and the actual number is yet unknown.
“To The Gates Of Hell”
Thorne’s attorney, Joseph Siprut, who is also representing all injured parties, stated, “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.”
Response From The Trump Campaign
As of this writing, there has been no response from the Trump campaign to the allegations in the lawsuit. They are probably still basking in yesterday’s primary wins.
Trump swept huge primary victories in five eastern states in the April 26 Super Tuesday elections. He racked up 58 percent, 61 percent, 54 percent, 57 percent, and 64 percent of the votes in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, respectively. Opponents Cruz and Kasich traded second and third wins with very small percentages.
On To Western State
Following his wins last night, Trump moves on to Indiana, where he currently holds the lead in a primary election that will be held next Tuesday. From there, the campaign moves to points west with primaries in Nebraska, Oregon, and Washington and finally to the big delegate prize in California.
The Trump Campaign is confident that it will get the 1,237 delegates it needs to make its candidate the Republican Party nominee on the first ballot at the convention in July.
[Photo by Julie Jacobson/AP Images]