T-Mobile sued after blocking marijuana text service

Ez Texting accuses carrier of cutting off of its SMS services for doing business with a legal-weed website

T-Mobile's moral track record is taking another hit: The wireless carrier is facing a lawsuit for cutting off a client's text message service simply because the company briefly extended its services to a medicinal marijuana club website.

Ez Texting, which was founded in 2006, said that it signed on a client called WeedMaps, a provider of information about legal marijuana dispensaries, a year ago without incident. Yet on Sept. 9, according to a statement from the company, "we were informed that certain carriers objected to the legal information available at WeedMaps' Website, and the fact that our short code was displayed on their Website," says Ez Texting's statement regarding to lawsuit.

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To appease T-Mobile, Ez Texting says it immediately terminated its business relationship with WeedMaps, blocking texts to and from the company and telling it to remove its short code from its site. Nevertheless, the very next day, T-Mobile starting blocking all SMS texts sent to Ez Texting's shared SMS code, according to the company, which means none of its customers receive texts from the company. Those customers include businesses, nonprofits, and religious groups.

"By doing so, without any warning, without any justification, and without any appeal, T-Mobile has put our business in jeopardy," reads the Ez Texting statement.

Ez Texting maintains that SMS services are protected by law the same as telephone services. "The FCC has found that text messages are phone calls. It is illegal for common carriers, like T-Mobile, to block phone calls. Consumers have the right to send and receive text messages just as they have a right to make and receive phone calls," the company argues.

The company raises a couple of interesting questions as to where this sort of action could lead: "If T-Mobile takes a stance to block lawful information about medicinal marijuana, will they take stances on all contentious issues? Will they block text messages from groups that advocate for gay marriage? Will they block text messages from religious organizations?"

Further, Ez Texting likens T-Mobile's action to blocking a toll-free number to a medical marijuana dispensary -- and asks whether the company's actions suggest it could block calls to customers using a rival carrier, such as Verizon or AT&T.

T-Mobile has not responded to requests for comment yet, so it's plausible there's more to the story than what Ez Texting is alleging. If the company's claims are true, however, T-Mobile has much to answer for in jeopardizing Ez Texting's business, as well the business of its clients, for seemingly employing such strong-arm tactics without any legal basis.

Notably, there's a certain irony here in that Ez Texting was quick to terminate its business relationship with WeedMaps and apparently starting playing the moral and legal cards only when its own business was adversely affected.

This article, "T-Mobile sued after blocking marijuana text service," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

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