A Florida woman is suing former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz in federal court in Seattle, claiming that his team sent unsolicited text messages to voters in alleged violation of federal law.
The proposed class-action suit alleges Schultz violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which forbids sending marketing messages to people on the federal Do Not Call list. Ironically, if Schultz had formally declared his candidacy for president, which he is still “seriously considering,” then he might not be in violation of the law because it does not apply to “political calls.”
Cassandra Vallianos filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. She is registered on the Do Not Call list but she’s a tempting target for political candidates eager to reach undecided voters because she is listed as a voter with “No Party Affiliation.” In her lawsuit, Vallianos claims Schultz sent her two text messages “in order to promote his book and to explore his potential presidential bid.”
The complaint alleges that the messages were sent via an automatic dialing system, in violation of federal rules. The complaint points to factors “consistent with the use of an automatic telephone dialing system to send text messages.”
Schultz’s representatives declined to comment on the lawsuit in response to GeekWire’s inquiry.
What Schultz was promoting in the text messages is a matter of perspective. The complaint includes an image of a text message that says, “Howard Schultz will be speaking in Miami at 12:30! Watch live” and “Howard Schultz will be speaking about his vision for America in Miami at 12:30! Watch live,” with a link to HowardSchultz.com. Visitors can purchase Schultz’s book from that page. The book was also for sale at the events referenced in the texts, according to the complaint.
This isn’t the first time Vallianos has sued over alleged Do Not Call list violations. In 2018, she sued Acurian, a company that recruits patients for medical studies, for the same reason. She voluntarily withdrew the lawsuit later, according to the court docket.
The complaint against Schultz says that the text messages harmed Vallianos and others “in the form of annoyance, nuisance, and invasion of privacy, and disturbed Vallianos’s use and enjoyment of her cellular phone, in addition to the wear and tear on the phones’ hardware (including the phones’ battery) and the consumption of memory on the phone.”
In addition to seeking class-action status, Vallianos is asking the judge for damages and an injunction requiring Schultz to stop sending unsolicited texts.
Continue reading for the full complaint.