A subscription streaming music service acquired by Apple earlier this year is facing a proposed class action lawsuit seeking more than $5 million over allegedly unsolicited text messages about its new mobile app.
Megan Craddock, an Illinois resident, sued Beats Music LLC Dec. 23 in Chicago's federal court, accusing the artist-friendly streaming service co-founded by rapper Dr. Dre and producer Jimmy Iovine of violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
Beginning on Jan. 21, Craddock alleges Beats Music sent wireless spam to the cell phones of potential customers of its streaming music business. She allegedly received a text known as a SMS message from the defendant on Jan. 23, shortly after downloading a free trial of the newly-released Beats Music app to her cell phone.
Most commercial SMS messages are sent from short codes or short numbers, which are usually only five or six digits and intended to be easier for consumers to remember. These messages, the suit notes, are typically utilized by consumers to subscribe to certain services, such as to vote for contestants on television programs like "American Idol," or to make donations to charities like American Red Cross.
Craddock claims the SMS message she received came from a short number operated by Beats Music and/or its telemarketing agents and read, "Beats Music Free Msg. You may qualify for special offers on Beats Music through AT&T. Redeem here https://beats.mu/p4Ds," a URL the defendant apparently owned and used to market its new mobile app.
Asserting that she did not provide consent to receive SMS messages from Beats Music, Craddock alleges the defendant violated the TCPA, a federal law enacted in 1991 to regulate the telemarketing industry by prohibiting unsolicited faxes and calls via automatic telephone dialing systems.
The fact the text message at the crux of the suit was sent from a SMS short code, as well as that it contained a generic promotion and impersonal advertising, shows Beats Music used an automatic telephone dialing system to send the text to Craddock, the suit states.
To further bolster her argument the text constitutes a TCPA violation, Craddock claims the automatic telephone dialing system used by the defendant had the capacity to store or produce numbers using a random or sequential number generator because its text message "campaign" was designed to contact potential consumers by the masses.
Unlike more conventional forms of advertising, the suit states that SMS texts and mobile spam can actually cost recipients money because oftentimes, they have to pay their cell phone provider for each text they get or see a deduction to their usage plan regardless of whether they consented to receive such texts.
In addition to "the aggravation that necessarily accompanies mobile spam" and the associated financial costs, Craddock claims in her proposed class action that text messages like the one she got from Beats Music "diminish cellular battery life, waste data storage capacity and are an intrusion upon seclusion."
She seeks to represent a class that would include all persons in the U.S. who received one or more unauthorized text message advertisements from Beats Music four years before she filed the suit and through the day the class is certified.
Saying class members would be identifiable through phone records and databases, Craddock's suit estimates the number of class members as "at least in the thousands" and the amount of damages as exceeding $5 million.
The suit includes two counts: one alleging negligent violations of the TCPA, which seeks an award of $500 in damages for each violation, and another alleging knowing and willful violations of the TCPA, which seeks up to $1,500 for each violation as the law allows for treble damages under such circumstances.
It also asks for the court to issue an injunction to make Beats Music stop sending unlawful text messages, and an award of costs and attorney's fees.
Craddock is represented by Chicago attorney Lauren E. Snyder, Brian K. Murphy in Ohio and Massachusetts attorneys Matthew P. McCue, Edwards A. Broderick and Anthony Paronich.
Beats Music, a Delaware company with customers across the nation, was acquired by Apple this past spring, along with Beats Electronics, which makes headphones, speakers and audio software.