A new class action lawsuit is alleging that Viacom sent spam text messages to MTV viewers following the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. The 2011 how was one of the biggest TV events that spring, attracting viewers all over the country who sent text messages to vote for pop stars like Lady Gaga and Snooki.
However, once Viacom (MTV’s parent company) had acquired voters’ phone numbers, the voters were flooded with text message spam about MTV programming. A class action suit is alleging that Viacom broke the law with this automatic opt-in.
A single plaintiff from Tennessee stood up for a number of undisclosed recipients of the spam texts, claiming she never gave permission for the media giant to inundate her with texts promoting MTV. The suit is now ongoing.
Viacom Fires Off Mass Spam Texts Without Warning
The plaintiff, Erin Mock, claims that after she voted for the VMAs using her cell phone, she received a series of promotional messages. The texts included content such as, “MTV: ‘Real World San Diego’ premieres Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 10/9c”
However, neither the live broadcast, MTV’s website, nor Ms. Mock’s original text indicated that she opted in to receive additional text message promotions.
As entertainment website The Wrap described the case:
“At no point during this [VMAs vote] solicitation, did Defendant advise its viewers, including Plaintiff, that by voting, they would be consenting to receipt of future text SPAM advertisements from Defendant and/or its subsidiaries and/or employees and/or agents,” the suit reads.
The spam texts consisted of promotional content for MTV shows such as The Real World and Jersey Shore, attaching links and videos. Ms. Mock is seeing $1,500 for each defendant as well as penalties for Viacom ensuring the text spamming will stop in the future.
Spam Texts: Irritating AND Unethical
Consumers are no stranger to unwanted advertising on their cell phones — we’ve seen an alarming rise in robo-calls, leading to nationwide attention from the FTC. Spam texts are particularly annoying because they can take up your phone’s memory and arrive at inconvenient moments.
And as Ms. Mock discovered, sometimes requesting a stop to the service doesn’t even work — she kept receiving the spam texts even after asking to opt out.
Plus, spam texts can cost you money! Receiving texts from an outside number, especially bulky multi-media texts, can rack up small charges on your phone bill.
Clicking on links contained in a spam message — like the Season 5 video promo for Jersey Shore sent in the MTV texts — can also potentially infect your smartphone with a virus or result in unwanted downloads.
How to Block Spam Texts and Keep Your Bill Free of Unwanted Charges
While this lawsuit will hopefully stick it to the spammers at Viacom, other organizations continue to inundate consumers with spam calls and texts.
Here are some tips for freeing yourself from the spam:
1. Don’t use toll-free numbers, especially to vote in contests. You may want to support your favorite American Idol, but calling those toll-free numbers can hit you with a hefty charge and place you on a list for future spam calls.
2. Inspect your phone bill. If you’re consistently seeing small charges here and there that you don’t remember making, you may have inadvertently subscribed to a spam texting service.
3. Don’t loan out your phone. If your friend is bored and feels like downloading Tetris on your iPhone, don’t let them do it! When you’re phone’s out of your supervision, even the most well-meaning person can load unwanted applications and thus open your phone up to spam.
Do you have any tips for avoiding spam texts? Let us know in the comments!
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