Sabtu, 05 Juni 2010

District Court Dismisses Claims in Nationwide Text Messaging Class Action

Text messaging is a booming advanced wireless service. This service for using cellular telephones to send and receive short messages was first introduced by AT&T in 2002 but was quickly launched by other wireless providers. Monthly text messages have soared from 4.7 billion during December 2005, to 9.8 billion during December 2006, all the way up to 48.1 billion in December 2008. In 2008 alone, some one trillion text messages were sent and received. This business has been the target of class-action litigation. But owing to a failure to allege facts sufficient to state a claim of unlawful conspiracy, a recent federal trial court ruling put the brakes on a nationwide class-action antitrust suit alleging collusive per-message price-fixing by all major wireless carriers.

Consumers typically purchase text messaging services either on a per-message basis or through a bundled plan. Bundled plans can include either set allotments of text messages or unlimited amounts. Moreover, since 2005, wireless carriers’ “prices for other wireless services, such as voice calling and data transmission, decreased.” Nonetheless, per-message prices for text messaging have become the target of congressional inquiry and a Department of Justice investigation that recently concluded without any action being taken. But permessage prices are also the subject of a sweeping class action lawsuit: In Re Text Messaging Antitrust Litigation.

Over a dozen separate lawsuits against the four national wireless carriers—AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon—were transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.
Plainti? s’ attorneys ? led suit on behalf of “all those who purchased text messaging services on a fee-per-message basis from defendants or their predecessors, subsidiaries, or a? liates from January 1, 2005 to the present.”

At issue in the district court’s December 2009 ruling was the defendants’ Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the plainti? s’ claims that all four national wireless carriers violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act. Horizontal price-? xing is per se illegal under antitrust law. Plainti? s’ alleged that the defendants colluded to ? x prices for per-message text messaging services.