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Florida marijuana company sued over texts

An errant text message or two is all it takes for your business to end up in court. A Tennessee resident has filed a federal lawsuit over unsolicited text messages he received from Florida's largest distributor of medical marijuana.

Many of the state's 22 licensed marijuana dispensaries use text messages to advertise specials and communicate new information about products to their customers. However, the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) requires businesses who market via phone calls or text messages to obtain written consent from consumers before they can use automatic dialing or text messing systems for that purpose. This is designed to prevent consumers from being "spammed" by unwanted advertising.

According to the filings by the plaintiff, who is seeking class-action status, those who received the unsolicited messages were harmed through the invasion of privacy, the intrusion on their seclusion, annoyance, trespass and conversion. The messages took up space on the plaintiff's cell and slowed it down, required his time to investigate and disrupted his daily life. They are seeking $1,500 for each violation of the TCPA and an injunction that will prevent further intrusions. Although the exact number of plaintiffs in the class is unknown, the lawsuit estimates that it is in the thousands.

Running afoul of the TCPA is easy to do, especially if you're relatively unfamiliar with it. Many businesses erroneously use text messages to confirm appointments, change meeting times, convey information about sales or specials and verify an employee's hours -- and they could be doing so illegally without even realizing it. The TCPA is very rigid -- and penalties for violations are stiff.

If you're concerned about potential violations of the TCPA and the risk to your business, it may be wise to seek legal assistance before you end up in a similar lawsuit.

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