We work in a competitive environment in which professionals seek various methods to reach would-be clients. Social media and other electronic resources may help professionals to connect and establish the brand. But, your friends at PL Matters routinely warn of the risks of new marketing methods that may infringe upon applicable ethics rules. A New York law firm recently learned that unsolicited text messaging may constitute improper advertising.
In a federal class action lawsuit, a class of plaintiffs alleged that a New York law firm improperly marketed through text messaging. The plaintiffs claimed that the firm used an automated dialer to transmit unsolicited advertisements via texts to prospective clients across the United States. According to the lawsuit, the text messages did not contain any opt-out language and used generic content that would appeal to a mass audience. The lawsuit further claimed that the use of text messages was intended to circumvent federal laws restricting solicitation through telephone, fax, and email.
The plaintiffs asserted that the text messaging scheme violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which restricts telephone solicitations, the use of automated dialing systems, and SMS text messaging, unless the recipient has given prior express consent. As a result, the plaintiffs claim that they are entitled to statutory damages of $500 for each member of the class, treble damages, and an injunction to prevent further violations.
Text messaging has become a popular mode of informal communication for professionals and clients alike. However, as with all forms of communication, professionals must be sure that they do not employ text messaging in a manner that could be construed as violating ethics rules on advertising or federal laws restricting unsolicited commercial electronic communications. Failure to adhere to proper advertising rules could lead to sanctions and civil liability.