A Florida dealership’s use of automated text messages to reach service customers has landed the store in federal court.
A proposed class-action lawsuit accuses Lokey Volkswagen in Clearwater of violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending thousands of text messages about open recalls to potential customers this year.
It’s one of a growing number of suits nationally that accuse dealerships of illegally using robo-calls and robo-texts to recruit service and sales customers.
The federal law restricts the use of automatic dialing systems, text messages, prerecorded voice messages and faxes, and requires solicitors to honor the national Do Not Call Registry. Violators face potential damages of $500 to $1,500 per violation.
The dealership contracted with Recall Masters Inc. to obtain names and cellphone numbers of prospective service customers whose vehicles had been recalled but not repaired, the suit contends. Recall Masters, which was not sued, also allegedly provided the makes, models and years of their vehicles.
The texts encouraged the recipients, who had no prior relation with Lokey Volkswagen and didn’t authorize such calls, to schedule service appointments, according to the suit filed by lead plaintiff April Gillmore, who owns a 2003 Jetta.
Her lawyer, Ari Scharg of Chicago, said he doesn’t know how many other people received such texts. He added that Gillmore would have had to pay to have her car serviced because the recall was more than 10 years old.
According to the suit, a Toyota dealership that was a Recall Masters client made $307,194 in warranty revenue and $77,321 in customer-pay revenue after four months in a similar program and sold an additional 81 vehicles.
The suit seeks damages, attorney fees and an injunction against sending unsolicited text messages without consumers’ consent.
The dealership didn’t respond to requests for comment.