Coming Soon: More Text Spam

In an overlooked but important change, the Federal Communications Commission earlier this month paved the way for apps to let users blast marketing texts to their contacts.

That sort of marketing—increasingly used by ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft to send referral codes—has long been a grey area within federal telemarketing rules.

Lyft and social network Path were in recent years sued over such texts on the grounds they constituted unsolicited marketing calls, which are illegal under federal law. Path’s case was dismissed, and Lyft’s was put on hold pending the FCC’s ruling. (Path declined to comment for this story, and Lyft didn’t respond to requests for comment.)

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“Ultimately, there appear to be two cops on the beat on this one, and they’re going to fight for turf,” said Morgan Reed, executive director of the Association for Competitive Technology, a trade group for app developers. “Industry trade groups, VCs and others are going to have to make sure we smack down bad behavior or let the ones who are acting poorly get taken to task by the FTC; if we don’t, the FCC will come back and change the rules.”

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