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Boston Market heads to court over text messages and the TCPA

| Apr 1, 2021 | Marketing Law

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is a federal law that limits the ability of businesses to contact current, past or potential clients and customers. A failure to abide by the rules of this law can result in serious penalties, costing the business thousands and even millions of dollars when faced with an alleged violation.

Does the TCPA apply to text messages?

Although originally developed in the early 1990s to address the use of telephone calls, lawmakers have since updated the law to cover current forms of communication. As a result, it does extend to prohibit autodialed text messages unless the sender has prior consent from the called party.

If the business claims it has consent from the contact, but the contact challenges the claim, the sender is responsible for proving consent. As such, it is important to keep good records of consent to defend against an alleged TCPA violation.  

How did Boston Market end up in court?

Boston Market, a national restaurant chain known for their rotisserie chickens, often experiences a surge in customer contacts during the Thanksgiving holiday. In an effort to meet their customer’s needs, business leaders chose to have any customer who called in but was unable to reach a contact receive a text message. This text message would apologize for the customer’s inability to reach a representative and encourage the customer to visit their website if they wish to place an order.

A customer filed a class action lawsuit, stating the message was a violation of the TCPA. In an example of how serious the repercussions for a violation can be, the customer is seeking over $5 million in damages.

What should other business leaders learn from this case?

Repercussions are serious. Do not take allegations of a violation lightly — no matter how absurd they may seem. What you intend as a helpful text message after the customer makes contact may be viewed as a violation. If faced with similar allegations, take steps to protect your interests.