Project Genesis

The Jewish Legal System

Business Law

Unsolicited Text Messaging

Question: Although some carriers offer free text messaging, many people are charged a fee for each text message. Is it permissible to send out an unsolicited text message to a group of people announcing a Torah class at a specific time, even though it might cost them money? Would the law vary depending on whether the recipient has attended this class on previous occasions?

Answer: I have discussed the matter with a colleague of mine from the Beis Hora’a (Jewish Law Center) of Lakewood, NJ, and we have concluded that it would, in fact, be permitted to utilize text messaging to make potential students aware of your classes, even if they have not given you express permission to do so.

There are several elements that factor into this decision. First, it is presumed that they were the initial source of the cell phone number. If so, since text messaging is a normal (and popular) use of a cell phone, it can be presumed that they permit its use in this manner.

Furthermore, via their websites, all of the major carriers in the United States facilitate rejecting text messages from all but a select list of contacts. Therefore, it can be presumed that if they provide their cell phone number, but haven’t taken this step to restrict text messages, then they accept your use of the number in this manner.

Finally, at the time of this writing, a recipient is charged for a text message upon reading it, not upon its receipt. While it is somewhat cumbersome on many phones, it is possible to check the source of a text message before “accepting” it by reading it. This leaves the ultimate control of whether or not a text message incurs a charge in the hands of the recipient themselves.

As a practical matter, it is advised to include an “opt-out” feature via telephone (since this could be done at no cost to the recipient) at the end of your first message.

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yitzchok Willroth

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