Maryland Clinic Sends SMS Spam Promoting Obamacare Sign Up

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We recently reported on Obamacare related spam in email, but now we are seeing it in the SMS world. We've received a number of SMS spam reports to 7726 from Maryland area codes reporting messages like this.

The affordable coverage deadline is DEC. 27. Enroll with an [REDACTED] Health specialist: www.[REDACTED].org/g We put your health first. (Reply STOP to opt-out)

On Dec 18th, these reports compromised 39% of all the SMS spam complaints sent from Maryland area codes. If the clinic had used email for this, it might have been legal under the CAN-SPAM Act. Assuming the recipients had visited the clinic and thus established an existing business relationship, sending opt out commercial email is allowed. However, SMS messages fall under a different law, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). This requires that the sender obtain advanced permission before using automatic means to call or text a phone number where the recipient has to pay extra to receive it. Since some phone users still pay for each text message received, the chances are high that this clinic was breaking the law. Unlike the CAN-SPAM Act for email, the TCPA does not carry criminal penalties for SMS spam, but it does allow consumers receiving the spam to sue the sender for statuary damages up to $1,500 per message. Last year a Jiffy Lube franchisee settled a class action law suit for $47 million. If any of the recipients of this spam find their way to the Maryland Small Claims Court rather than the clinic sign up desk, they may find an easy way to pay for the first few months of Obamacare.