The number of Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) lawsuits has grown significantly over the past few years. In 2007, there were only 14 TCPA cases in federal courts across the United States. In 2016, there were almost 5,000 cases—that’s nearly 360 times the 2007 number. Unfortunately, this trend is only appearing to continue.
The rise in TCPA lawsuits has led to what’s referred to as “professional TCPA plaintiffs.” What is a professional TCPA plaintiff? Keep reading to find out.
Why Is There a Rise in TCPA Lawsuits?
One reason for the rise in TCPA lawsuits is that the TCPA is one of very few federal laws that have minimum statutory damages. This means that no matter what, the price is fixed; the cost is $500 per message, per person, which triples to $1,500 per message, per person if an SMS marketing violation is deemed willful.
Unlike in a car accident, where you must prove to the court (with evidence) that you have been harmed, and then have your bills and expenses paid, a TCPA violation case is very defined and strict, which makes it easy for plaintiffs to abuse. In a TCPA case, the plaintiff doesn’t even need to pick up the phone to have grounds to sue, because if an unauthorized SMS marketing message was sent at all, it’s a violation.
When the fines grow per text message, per person, it’s not uncommon for plaintiffs to wait for several weeks of text messages to build up (at $500 value each) and then sue a brand for TCPA violations. If the plaintiff can prove that it was a willful violation, then that potential payout triples.
TCPA Class Action Lawsuits
That’s already bad enough, but we must also consider that these cases often turn into class-action lawsuits. This can push costs for these lawsuits into the millions of dollars, which is threatening to any company. This is all before considering the damage to the brand’s reputation. This is the threat that convinces brands to settle early and quickly.
This provides the perfect situation for people to become “professional TCPA plaintiffs,” or attorneys that constantly sue brands for money by leveraging the TCPA in text message marketing. Even if there is no TCPA violation, brands might consider a settlement in order to avoid negative exposure. The consequences of fighting the claim and losing are dire, so plaintiffs can file claims and reasonably expect payouts. The FCC is currently looking into solutions for this, but the only way to better approach these issues is to be careful with your SMS marketing. Take all the necessary precautions, and make yourself as safe as possible.
Protecting Your Brand from TCPA Lawsuits
It is for these reasons we always encourage clients to work with an SMS provider versed in TCPA regulations. The laws around TCPA compliance will be ruled on differently in each individual court or location. Having a team of trusted experts to guide you through the process will save you money in the long run.
We hope this breakdown was helpful to you! To learn more about text message marketing and the TCPA, check out this TCPA Text Messaging Survival Guide.