Woman Sues Toyota For Convincing Her She Was Being Stalked

It’s probably a bad idea to market to consumers by tricking them with practical jokes. It’s definitely a bad idea to make a consumer fear for her safety over a five day period because she thinks a stalker is coming after her. That’s why a woman in Los Angeles is suing Toyota for $10 million after being on the receiving end of a Punk’d-style stunt to promote the Toyota Matrix.

In a lawsuit filed Sept. 28 in Los Angeles Superior Court, Amber Duick claims she had difficulty eating, sleeping and going to work during March and April of last year after she received e-mails for five days from a fictitious man called Sebastian Bowler, from England, who said he was on the run from the law, knew her and where she lived, and was coming to her home to hide from the police.

Along with messages from the fictitious man, Duick received a fake bill for damages to a hotel room where the man had stayed.

Toyota’s lawyers say Duick agreed to the prank when she filled out an online personality test sponsored by the company, but her lawyer says the agreement she clicked didn’t mention anything about the nature of the prank.

Tepper, Duick’s attorney, said he discussed the campaign with Toyota’s attorneys earlier this year, and they said the “opting in” Harp referred to was done when Duick’s friend e-mailed her a “personality test” that contained a link to an “indecipherable” written statement that Toyota used as a form of consent from Duick.

Tepper, said that during those legal negotiations, Toyota’s lawyers claimed Duick signed the written legal agreement, which they said amounts to “informed written consent.”

“So if [Duick] signed something, she’s informed that she’s signing ‘A,’ but in fact she’s signing something else,” Duick’s attorney said. “It’s written and it is consent, but you’re not informed about the thing that you’re actually signing up for? “It didn’t say someone was going to be stalking my client. It was premised upon keeping my client in the dark, upon fooling her that these e-mails were real.”

Update: Our reader Michael Belisle posted a link to the Toyota Matrix marketing/prank website, where Toyota explains how the prank works.

YourOtherYou is a unique interactive experience enabling consumers to play extravagant pranks. Simply input a little info about a friend (phone, address, etc.) and we’ll then use it, without their knowledge, to freak them out through a series of dynamically personalized phone calls, texts, emails and videos. First, one of five virtual lunatics will contact your friend. They will seem to know them intimately, and tell them that they are driving cross-country to visit. It all goes downhill from there. The Matrix integrates seamlessly into the experience and you can follow the progress of your prank in real-time online. Each piece of the campaign assures that the experience is as Google-proof as possible.

“Woman Sues Toyota Over ‘Terrifying’ Prank” [ABCNews] (Thanks to Steve!)
(Photo: Capture Queen ™)

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