On July 29, 2013, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division against an expansive, international network of companies that allegedly sent millions of unwanted text messages to consumers. According to the Complaint filed by the FTC, the defendant companies allegedly duped consumers into purchases and providing personally identifiable information used for subsequent illegal robocalls through offers of "free' gift cards and electronics.
The FTC brought this lawsuit pursuant to Sections 13(b) and 19 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. Sections 53(b) and 57(b), and the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act, 15 U.S.C. Sections 6101-6108. In its legal action, the FTC is seeking temporary, preliminary, and permanent injunctive relief, in addition to monetary refunds and other equitable relief.
The factual allegations of the FTC's Complaint date back to at least June 2011 when the defendants allegedly began offering consumers "purportedly free merchandise, such as $1,000 gift cards to large retailers, and products such as an Apple iPad." Consumers were allegedly lured to these "free" offers by unsolicited commercial electronic text messages ("text message spam"), sent either by the defendant companies or by third parties acting on behalf of the defendants. Text messages allegedly used for this purpose included the following:
"You WON! Go to www.prizeconfirm.com to claim your $1000 Walmart Gift Card Now!"
"FREE MSG: you have been chosen to test & keep the new iPad for free only today!! Go to http://testnkeepcell.com and enter 2244 and your zipcode to claim it now!"
The alleged scheme employed by the defendants, among other things, elicited personally identifiable information by representing that disclosure of such information was necessary for the shipment of free merchandise that the consumer had won. Once submitting this information, however, consumers were allegedly led to subsequent online destinations that ultimately required completion of a total of thirteen (13) offers in order to qualify for promised "free" merchandise. The information collected by the defendants through this process was then allegedly sold or shared with third parties for marketing purposes, and also used to allegedly target subsequent illegal robocalls.