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Uber Accused of Sending Thousands of Unwanted Robo Text Messages

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Austin, TXUber Technologies (Uber) has come under fire for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and is targeted by a nuisance call lawsuit with one caveat: the allegedly illegal robocalls came in the form of unwanted text messages.

According to The Texas Tribune (5/4/16), the ride-hailing enterprise was accused of sending out thousands of “robo text messages” to customers in the Austin area soliciting their support for what was described as a controversial referendum. The illegal telemarketing lawsuit was filed May 4 in federal court, in Austin.

“Uber has violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act,” the lawsuit states, “by robo-texting thousands of unwanted text messages to the cell phones of thousands of Uber users in Austin, Texas - all without the prior express consent of those receiving Uber’s text messages - as part of a political campaign by Uber to oppose mandates from the City of Austin which impose various background check procedures for Uber drivers.”

Lead plaintiff in the class-action robocall lawsuit is Melissa Cubria.

The nuisance call lawsuit grew out of a disagreement between the city of Austin and ride-sharing enterprises Uber and Lyft. The City of Austin had proposed an ordinance where drivers participating in ride-sharing and seeking fares would be required to undertake fingerprint-based background checks.

Uber, in deference to the Austin ordinance, favored self-regulation and launched a combined $8 million advertising and lobby campaign in tandem with Lyft in an attempt to persuade referendum voters to allow self-regulation.

Included in the lobby effort were thousands of text messages sent to Uber customers allegedly without their consent. Cubria’s lawsuit asserts that the TCPA currently has no restrictions on live, manual communications - in other words, text messages composed by hand and sent to an individual by the composing individual. Cubria contends the unwanted text messages received were akin to robocalls, and thus are subject to restrictions under the TCPA.

“It’s absurd to imagine that Uber paid individual, living persons to manually type and then manually send thousands (and perhaps tens of thousands) of individual text messages in support of a political campaign underway in Austin, Texas,” the lawsuit reads.

Uber reportedly views the lawsuit as being without merit. It should be noted that Uber and Lyft’s proposal for self-regulation and attempts to prevent the city of Austin from imposing fingerprint-based background checks was defeated in the ensuing referendum. (5/8/16) reported that 56 percent of Austin voters eschewed the idea of ride-sharing companies regulating themselves.

The two companies reportedly spent more than $8 million combined in various advertising and lobbying campaigns aimed at swinging voter opinion to their side. Those efforts, it is alleged, included tens of thousands of unwanted text messages - alleged to be automated - that are being viewed as illegal, or so it is alleged.

The illegal telemarketing lawsuit is Cubria v. Uber Technologies, Inc., Case No. 1:2016cv00544, filed May 4, 2016 in Texas Western District Court.


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I had been called 4-5 times a day from Uber, mostly texts for a week straight. Finally I texted them back 3 times asking them to stop sending me messages.


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