“Errant text messages cost the Buffalo Bills millions”—the Rise of TCPA Litigation

Blog- Phone ImageBy Craig Dammeier

In April of 2014, the Buffalo Bills settled a two-year federal court case in Florida for a cool $3 million dollars. Their mistake? Sending three more text messages over a 14-day period than a fan had agreed to. Mr. Jerry Wojcik visited the Bills’ website in 2012 and opted-in to receiving promotional text messages limited to “…three to five messages per week for a total of 10 to 12 weeks.” Instead, Mr. Wojcik received six text messages the first week and seven the second week. He subsequently filed a class action suit against the sports franchise alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The settlement agreement was as follows: each eligible class member was entitled to a share of $2.5 million worth of debit cards (only redeemable on the Bills’ website, a “win” for the franchise) and $500,000 in attorney’s fees. And it’s not just the Bills (nor the NFL) that faces this menace. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the LA-based Chargers, Clippers, and Lakers have all fallen victim to the heartless TCPA. These teams are being mercilessly-abused over a few extra promotional emails or texts—who will help them survive the night?

The TCPA, passed by the Federal Communications Commission in 1991, was originally intended to protect individuals against unsolicited calls and texts sent to wireless devices (and home phones) by “auto-dialers.” Auto-dialers are automatic telephone dialing systems that use prerecorded or artificial voice messages. The 1991 statute arose over complaints regarding the increased use of auto-dialers, specifically because the called parties could incur significant phone bills as a result of the unsolicited calls. In response, the TCPA provides statutory damages of $500 (for an “innocent” violation) and $1,500 for a willful violation of the statute.

In 2012, a subsequent amendment to the TCPA included text messages and other modern technologies into the statute and further precluded companies from making any call without the prior express consent of the consumer. It also required the companies provide an automated, interactive “opt-out” mechanism which would allow the consumer to stop all future messages. It is under this 2012 amendment that TCPA litigation has seen a historic rise in the court system.

While the statute was originally passed to protect consumer privacy and restrict companies from engaging in unwanted telemarketing communication practices, it has quickly become a favorite weapon of plaintiff’s firms as it creates liability for every company from startups to international banks (not just sports franchises). Furthermore, the Act enables mistreated consumers and their lawyers to collect massive class action settlements. Bank of America settled its TCPA class action for $32 million (the culmination of six pending TCPA litigation matters), HSBC was granted judicial approval of a $40 million settlement in 2015, and Western Union agreed to pay $8.5 million the same year. The potential payout has created a frenzy amongst plaintiff’s firms, with several creating sub-groups that specifically handle TCPA class actions. The rise in TCPA litigation has not gone un-noticed by the Judiciary either: “This is the second multi-million-dollar class action settlement this court has reviewed and addressed in the last three weeks in which the plaintiff class has sued credit card companies for violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.”

In short, the sharks are circling and each bite provides larger and larger settlements for Americans whose consumer rights have been violated (along with attorney’s fees, of course).

Who Scores With the Ads on NBA Jerseys?

BBALL foto

By Alex Bullock

The National Basketball Association’s (NBA) owners recently approved a proposal to allow the sale of jersey sponsorships as a part of a three-year trial program set to begin in the 2017-2018 season, the same year that the league’s official uniform provider switches over from Adidas to Nike. Jersey sponsorship will take the form of a patch on the front left of the jersey, measuring 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches. The Nike logo will occupy the same position on the other side of the jersey.

This decision by the NBA’s owners marks the first foray into in-game, on-jersey advertisements by one of the “big four” sports in the United States (NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL). Adam Silver, the Commissioner of the NBA, said the NBA teams could earn additional revenue of $100 million annually through the program, and that “[j]ersey sponsorships provide deeper engagement with partners looking to build a unique association with our teams and the additional investment will help grow the game in exciting new ways.”

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Using the Crying Michael Jordan Meme: Playful Troll or Inevitable Lawsuit?

mj memeBy Yayi Ding

The Crying Michael Jordan Meme has struck again! However, this time it has struck at the expense of Jordan’s own alma mater, the University of North Carolina (UNC). Earlier this month, the annual NCAA championship game ended in a dramatic fashion, as Villanova hit a buzzer-beating shot to end UNC’s title hopes. And almost immediately, the internet responded, with none other than the wildly popular Crying Michael Jordan Meme. The Crying Michael Jordan Meme has become an internet sensation in recent years, but can its use ever lead to legal troubles? Continue reading

Kobe Bryant Trademarks Phrase to Prepare for the Next Chapter

kobeBy Yayi Ding

It’s official – Kobe Bryant has trademarked the phrase: “Friends Hang Sometimes Banners Hang Forever.”

The motto originated from a 2015 interview with Kobe, when a reporter asked him about “not being a great friend all the time.” His response captured the relentless drive that has defined him as a basketball player: “Friends can come and go, but banners hang forever.” As Kobe’s NBA career comes to a close, his legal efforts offer more insight into his business acumen and his post-retirement preparations. Continue reading