Middle America's favorite pizza chain got slapped with a $250 million class action lawsuit for sending spammy text messages to its customers without their permission. Filed in the U.S. District Court in Seattle on Monday, the lawsuit alleges Papa Johns Pizza of violating state and federal law with text message blasts sent to customers through mass texting service OnTime4U. Plaintiffs say they sometimes received 15 or 16 text messages in a row, sometimes in the middle of the night, for a grand total of 500,000 unwanted texts.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 requires companies to get permission from customers before sending them text messages. "After I ordered from Papa John's, my telephone started beeping with text messages advertising pizza specials," said one of the plaintiffs in a statement. "Papa John's never asked permission to send me text message advertisements."
This little direct marketing campaign could turn out a very expensive boondoggle for Papa Johns. The plaintiffs want Papa Johns to pay them $500 per text, though that figure could climb as high as $1,500 per text if the judge decides that the pizza chain knowingly and willfully broke the law. That said, Papa Johns also has a history of coming out on top in lawsuits like this. Beginning in 1998, Papa Johns defended itself against false advertising claims made by Pizza Hut over its tagline "Better ingredients. Better pizza." Pizza Hut denied that Papa Johns had better ingredients. The U.S. Supreme Court took Papa Johns side.
Of course, winning one little Supreme Court case for its advertising methods doesn't make Papa Johns unstoppable. Courts are notoriously unsympathetic to companies that spam their customers. And that detail about 15 to 16 texts in the middle of the night? It'd be hard to find a judge in America that wouldn't find that out of line. Seriously. Who are these people?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.