If you’re interested in signing up as an Uber driver, a friend or driver can have the site text you a mutually beneficial referral code. Some consumers in Washington state reported receiving referral text messages from the ride-hailing app that they didn’t ask for, though, with no way to opt out, and now the company and the state have settled those charges.
It can be handy to have a referral code and app download link right in your text message mailbox, but only if you’re actually interested in signing up. Many people who received these texts weren’t, and received referral messages from drivers.
The specific practices that Washington state found to be problematic were sending unsolicited text messages, and giving recipients no way to stop or respond to the messages. One Washington state resident reported receiving messages from Uber for weeks on end, and another reported that a website bug meant that they received 15 to 20 messages from Uber that couldn’t be stopped short of blocking the number.
“Receiving text messages you didn’t ask for — and not knowing how to stop them — frustrates consumers,” Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement. “This agreement ensures that consumers control whether they receive messages from Uber.”
The ride-hailing app company agreed [PDF] to pay the state of Washington $40,000, and to only send text messages to people who have consented to receiving them.
When Uber does send texts, it has to include opt-out instructions in the first message sent, and set up an auto-responder for unmonitored lines that answer all messages with opt-out instructions.
The reason why that was necessary becomes clear when you look at the screen grabs that the Attorney General’s office included with its press release about the agreement. The messages came from a non-responding void with no options to stop them from coming.