This ought to be interesting.
Ride-hailing company Uber was hit with a class-action lawsuit on Wednesday over “robo-text messages” the company has been sending Austin customers seeking their support for a controversial referendum on the ballot Saturday.
The suit, filed in federal court, claims Uber violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending “thousands of unwanted text messages” to Uber users in the city without prior consent.
“Uber has violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act … 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,” argues the lawsuit filed by Melissa Cubria in the U.S. District Court for the Western District.
On Wednesday, Our City, Our Safety, Our Choice, a group against the proposed ordinance, called for an investigation into the “questionable election activities” by Uber and Lyft.
“Uber and Lyft’s $8.8 million and growing in corporate spending as of Tuesday is a testament to how far these corporations are willing to go to rule Austin and overturn Austin’s public safety rules,” said Laura Morrison, a former Austin City Council member, during a Wednesday press conference. “It is obscene to see unprecedented corporate millions poured into a political campaign in an attempt to deceive and manipulate the people of Austin.”
Austin political consultant Mark Littlefield also spoke at the conference on the ad campaign, pointing specifically to the frequent texts sent by both Uber and Lyft.
Cubria’s lawsuit contends that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act does not include restrictions on live, manual communications — only generated messages.
“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.
I’ve seen some screenshots of these texts from folks on Facebook. Maybe some were sent by actual people and not an automated process, but who knows? I can’t wait to see how this one plays out.