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Outsourcing Review: A Case of “Text Spam” and Vicarious Liability for Vendor Acts

by Andrew J. Schlidt, posted Tuesday, March 13, 2012 12:00 AM

Many companies outsource portions of their marketing program to third party marketing firms. With the continued popularity of text messaging, marketing firms often encourage clients to enhance brand awareness through multiple channels of electronic communication, including text messaging.

Keep in mind that the sending of unauthorized, automated commercial text messages likely violates the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. In a recent “text spam” class action case before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (In re Jiffy Lube International Inc., S.D. Cal., No 11-2261, 3/8/12), six named plaintiffs claimed that the defendants violated the Act for sending unauthorized, automated text messages to cell phones. One of the defendants sought dismissal from the case on grounds that its third party marketing firm sent the messages. The court rejected this particular defendant’s argument and ruled that the defendant should not be relieved of liability under the Act “merely because it hired a different firm to send advertisements to its customers.”

This ruling is a reminder that companies may be held vicariously liable for the acts of their outsource providers. Companies are well-advised to address compliance with laws and allocation of liability for non-compliance in their underlying outsourcing agreements.

Outsourcing Review provides commentary on legal developments affecting companies engaged in technology outsourcing (ITO) or business process outsourcing (BPO).

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