Papa John’s Pizza is facing a $250-million lawsuit from customers who claim that the fast-food chain illegally sent them 500,000 promotional text messages in 2010.
The lawsuit was granted class-action status by a U.S. District Court judge in Seattle late last week, according to a statement from the Heyrich Kalish McGuigan law firm. Participants are seeking $500 for each unwanted text, which they say Papa John’s sent without their permission.
The complaint alleges that some of the chain’s franchisees used the marketing company OnTime4U to send a flood of messages about pizza deals to a database of customers who had previously ordered from Papa John’s.
The company disavowed the program in 2010, sending a memo to all of its corporate and franchise stores that “the practice and process of sending UNSOLICITED messages to mobile devices is most likely ILLEGAL.” Papa John’s then directed franchisees to reclaim the customer data from OnTime4U.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit could result in “one of the largest damages awards ever recovered under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act,” according to plaintiffs’ lawyers.
“This should be a wake-up call to advertisers,” said attorney Donald W. Heyrich in a statement. “Consumers do not want spam on their cellphones. If you do not have permission from your customers, do not send them text messages. It’s as simple as that.”
Papa John’s has also been making waves lately as its founder, John Schnatter, publicly criticizes President Obama’s healthcare reform plan. Schnatter has said that costs associated with the so-called Obamacare rollout will likely be passed onto the pizza chain’s customers and that employees may lose their jobs.
The company’s Facebook page has been seen a surge of boycott threats. However, a separate group on the social media site is proposing a National Papa John’s Appreciation Day on Friday -- in the same vein, organizers said, as the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day effort launched this summer.