Unsubscribe! Resi brokerages sued over text message spam

Agents with Coldwell Banker and Marzucco Real Estate sent "thousands” of texts about their listings, suits allege

Apr.April 04, 2019 09:45 AM

Agents sent “thousands” of texts about their listings, suit claims (Credit: iStock)

Two South Florida brokerages face lawsuits alleging that their agents abused an automated texting service to market properties.

Steven Grossberg filed suit last month in West Palm Beach District Court against Coldwell Banker, alleging that he received a flood of unwanted text messages advertising the company’s listings.

The same day, Christian Larosa filed suit against Naples-based Marzucco Real Estate over similar claims.

The suits are seeking class action status.

Grossberg and Larosa are represented by the same lawyer, Michael Eisenband, who did not respond to requests for comment. Coldwell Banker also did not respond to requests for comment and Marzucco Real Estate declined to comment.

The plaintiffs in both suits claim that they were the victims of a platform called an “automated telephone dialing system” that sent “thousands” of text messages to them and others, channeled through a changing list of numbers that seem local.

The technology, the suits say, violates the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a federal law that controls how businesses market their products to consumers over the phone.

In Marzucco’s case, an agent allegedly sent Larosa text messages asking for his email address and offering to “get your home sold within 60 days!” The messages linked back to the agent’s Zillow profile.

Coldwell Banker faces similar accusations. Rather than canvassing for sellers, the agent in that case allegedly sent Grossberg messages advertising an “OPEN HOUSE” at a specific property. Those messages linked to a website the agent had made through a lead-generation company named Listings-to-Leads.

Scott Pierce, the founder of Listings-to-Leads, confirmed that the agent was a client of his, but denied that he had sold the technology to spam Grossberg’s phone. He said that agents who use multiple tools might run into legal trouble if they aren’t familiar with the law.

“A typical real estate agent will have five, six, seven programs,” Pierce said, adding that the agent “probably never took the time to see what the law is.”

Regulators are clamping down on so-called “robocalls,” which afflict consumers across many industries. Last year, the Federal Communications Commission slapped a $120 million fine on a Florida scammer who made nearly 100 million calls, claiming association with brands like Expedia.

But few cases have involved real estate—an industry where sales agents are increasingly turning to online services as a way to close deals.

“Just because they offer it doesn’t mean you can abuse it,” Pierce said, referring to companies that offer shady services. “It’s like eating candy and wondering why you’re getting fat. You can’t take technology and abuse it and wonder why you’re getting sued.”

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