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Using text message marketing? This class action lawsuit may change your mind

(MARKETING NEWS) A new class action lawsuit may have your team reconsidering whether or not text message marketing is worth the risk.

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Imagine sitting on the sofa with your family and your phone vibrates. It’s a text message! You’re expecting your brother to let you know if he’ll make it to dinner tomorrow.

But it’s a text from a real estate brokerage, loudly proclaiming an “OPEN HOUSE THIS WEEKEND” in all caps, with a link to the listing.

How did they get your number? Why are they yelling at you? Why doesn’t the link have a brokerage name in the URL? Why would I click that link? Why am I being bothered during family time? Why, why, why?

Most people would block the number and move on, or text “stop,” in hopes that the future barrage of unsolicited texts would stop. We all get them from every direction, nearly every day now.

But not Floridian Steve Grossberg, who took a screenshot of a text message from a Coldwell Banker agent, and hired an attorney. A class action lawsuit has since been filed in the Southern District of Florida, and a court date is set for this Friday, April 12, for Judge Federico A. Moreno to review the case.

The lawsuit claims the text messages were sent without written permission from the recipients (required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) since 2012), causing the Defendants “injuries, including invasion of their privacy, aggravation, annoyance, intrusion on seclusion, trespass, and conversion.”

Class action status is being sought for this case – Grossberg’s attorneys claim individual cases for all those impacted would overwhelm the court system and be too financially cumbersome for potential individual plaintiffs.

They’re seeking up to $1,500 in damages for each violation, which they say exceeds the $5,000,000 threshold for federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). The “Class” would include anyone in the past four years that have texted by Coldwell Banker or anyone on their behalf, using automated equipment (or an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS)). Interestingly, in the “Class” description, the attorneys don’t include permission status at all, just “anyone” that has been auto-texted by the brokerage.

Court documents outline in detail the technologies used that allegedly violate federal statues, and Grossberg isn’t just suing the local agent or brokerage, but the international company, Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, claiming the text messages sent violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

The lawsuit does not outline in such detail, the chain of permission that was or was not given.

Real estate professionals that hire a marketing firm or a tech startup that promises to modernize their marketing, have an expectation that their money is being spent on something that is in compliance with all laws, be they local, state, or federal. Especially if that is what the company being hired specializes in.

Laying it at the feet of the end user (brokerages) is unfair, and it is curious that no service provider is named as the Defendant. Perhaps Coldwell Banker’s pockets seem deeper.

Additionally, the topic of permission is convoluted, as website visitors will often fill out their information when viewing homes, and the IDX provider will use that contact information to send even more information, thus written permission to contact.

Lumping the above activity in with telemarketing spam would be inaccurate. If a brokerage bought a list of phone numbers to cold text without consumers’ permission, that would, however be illegal.

Regardless, in the text message showcased in the lawsuit, the URL provided (ishomenow.com) forwards to listingstoleads.com – Listings-to-Leads (L2L) which says it is a “leading inbound marketing platform with a lead generation system.”

It appears to us that the lead generation company is the originator of the text message, not a specific Coldwell Banker agent or broker.

This Friday will determine next steps in this case, but for now, it is worth investigating your own text message marketing efforts (whether done yourself or through a third party) to make sure proper permissions have been obtained, and that all use is within current federal guidelines, because a potential $1,500 per text message sent in violation of the law would hurt any brokerage.

Be sure to read the lawsuit in its entirety as it outlines the specific behaviors in question, and review this potentially helpful compliance checklist in the meantime.

Real Estate Technology

New tool translates your phone calls into 29 languages – LIVE

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) There’s no need for a language to language dictionary any longer. A lingvanex tool allows for real-time translation on phone calls in different languages.

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lingvanex translates in real time

If you’ve read a few things that I’ve written on here, you know that I often marvel at how far remote work has come. The fact that I write this as my dog sits beside me is no small feat.

What teams can accomplish in a virtual setting is pretty impressive, and tools like Slack and Trello are very helpful in this regard. However, remote workers still utilize the tried and true phone call as it remains a tool of efficiency.

This can be especially helpful if you’re working with team members or clients in other countries when a translator may need to be involved. This concept was the inspiration behind the Lingvanex Phone Call Translator.

The new tool translates voice calls into 29 different languages in real time. Working on both mobile phones and landlines, users can call countries all around the world (150 countries in total are available through the app).

This option is cheaper than roaming calls, starting at 18 cents per minute through use of VoIP. The conversation is then transcribed in real time with the details of the conversation being available only to the user, as Lingvanex does not store conversation data.

“We are happy to represent you the Phone Call Translator – a real-time voice translator, which was created to help in solving questions in travel situations and urgent business problems with foreigners or help in communicating with friends abroad,” says Lingvanex. “You can speak your native language when you call through the app. Your partner and you will hear the translation of both callers during the call, the original speech and translation will also be duplicated on the phone screen.”

The app works in a few simple steps: first, download to your device (works on both Android and iOS). Next, register and create application account – during this, you’ll select your default language. Then, you will select the language of the person you are calling. Make the call by dialing the phone number with the country code. Finally, chat it up walkie-talkie style.

Say what you need to say, then Phone Call Translator takes your words and transcribes them for the person on the other end. This could be very helpful as it gives you an extra moment to think about what to say next!

Do you think this will be helpful for you? Let us know below!

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Real Estate Technology

Should digital assistants have empathy? Big investors say yes

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Bonding with your digital assistant might be more likely than you expect with ElliQ. The rising numbers of AI assistants have created unique interactions.

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ElliQ assistant

It sounds crazy to think that you could form an actual bond with something like Siri or Alexa, but actually, humans are pretty dang good at forming emotional connections to machines. For instance, a Canadian company threw an entire retirement party for five mail delivery bots. People will use Roombas as a substitute for companionship, not unlike a cat or dog. Humans just seem to enjoy connection – even if it’s with a lifeless robot.

Intuition Robotics is taking this desire for emotional connection a step further by working to create digital assistants that can more easily bond with their human companions. At the moment, their biggest product is ElliQ, a robotic digital assistant designed to bond with eldery users. In fact, according to Intuition Robotics, their average demographic falls between ages 78 – 97.

And ElliQ seems to be doing its job. The company reports that customers interact with ElliQ regularly throughout the day, even holding conversations with the machine, and are more likely to listen to ElliQ’s suggestions, which often include proactive behavior like getting outdoors or eating more vegetables.

By working to create a more empathetic and emotional digital AI, Intuition Robotics has started to discover a whole world of new possibilities. And they’re just getting started, having recently raised another $36 million to continue research.

One of their plans? Combining these empathetic digital assistants with the automotive industry.

Imagine an assistant that could suggest you pull over when it senses you’re getting drowsy, or provide something to talk to during longer drives. Plus, unlike ElliQ, which stays put while you move around, you and the assistant will be together in a car, making it easier for the AI to learn your preferences and habits.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg for Intuition Robotics, which has recently majorly expanded its workforce. A digital assistant that can provide a better emotional connection to humans has a world of possible applications, from nursing homes to elementary schools.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of reasons to be worried about a more empathetic AI – the marketing capabilities alone are something I’m side-eyeing. That said, humans have been befriending vacuum cleaners and we’ve turned out alright, so for now, let’s focus on the positive possibilities that could come with tech from companies like Intuition Robotics.

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Real Estate Technology

Moving just got a lot easier with this NAR invested app

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Worried about moving? There’s an app for that, updater, and NAR has taken notice. They want to help their customers from beginning to end.

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updater app

Moving isn’t exactly a walk in the park. There’s coordinating movers, finding boxes, cancelling services, changing your mailing address on, well, everything, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! With so much to do, it’s easy to get overwhelmed but good news: turns out, there’s an app for that. And it’s promising enough that the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) have invested in it.

The app in question is Updater, which serves as a one-stop shop for everything you’d need for a move. Not only can the app help you craft your moving “to-do” list, but with its connection to all sorts of businesses involved in the moving process (from moving truck companies to cable services) you can keep all your prep in one place. Essentially, Updater is designed to make moving as stress-free as possible.

Updater’s current successes have drawn Second Century Ventures, the venture capital section of NAR, to invest in Updater. Which is cool, but why would a company focused on realtors want to help a company that focuses on what happens after a realtor has done their job?

“Updater’s platform delivers unique value to Realtors®, property managers and consumers alike,” said Mark Birschbach, senior VP of Strategic Business at NAR, “This investment is well aligned with SCV’s mission to support and advance technologies throughout the entire real estate ecosystem.”

Plus, Updater is a great tool for realtors to have in their back pocket. If a client seems nervous about moving or overwhelmed, Updater is a great recommendation. Not only does it help the mover, but it shows that the realtor cares about their client’s well-being, even after the deed is signed.

So, what’s next for Updater? Growth. Recently, Updater acquired Bridgevine, a company that works with home subscription services like cable and internet. This merger will allow Updater to offer more options to users while also increasing their reach. This is the first in what will likely be many growth initiatives for Updater.

David Greenberg, founder and CEO of Updater, is also looking forward to the partnership with NAR. “We’re excited to deepen our great relationship with SCV and NAR by investing heavily in the real estate industry and by enabling Realtors® and property managers to deliver an unrivaled moving experience.”

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