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Attorney General Files State’s First “SPAM” Lawsuit

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Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed the first consumer protection lawsuit on behalf of the state targeting “spamming,” the practice of sending unsolicited, commercial e-mails in violation of state law. The suit names a California company and its two owners/operators.

“Spamming is the scourge of the Information Age. It burdens the Internet system, costs individuals and businesses an estimated $8 billion a year and is extremely annoying to those who find their e-mails clogged with electronic junk mail,” Lockyer said. “In filing this action, we are sounding a warning that we will track down and prosecute those who send illegal spam.”
Named as defendants are Paul Willis of Northridge and Claudia Griffin of Canyon Country, as well as their company, PW Marketing LLC. The defendants are alleged to have sent millions of illegal, unsolicited commercial e-mails promoting products that the company claims will help others make money through spamming. The company’s unsolicited e-mails advertise books, software and lists of e-mail addresses, including one list purported to contain only e-mail addresses of California residents.
Filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, the lawsuit alleges the company violated various California consumer protection statutes that prohibit the sending of spam, using false addresses in advertising, failing to disclose required information, engaging in untrue or deceptive advertising and engaging in unfair business competition.
Since 1998, California has prohibited individuals and companies from sending commercial e-mail to those who have neither requested nor consented to receive the e-mail, or with whom they do not have an existing business or personal relationship, unless: The sender has either established a toll-free number that recipients can call to stop future e-mails or included a valid e-mail address that recipients can contact to stop future e-mails; And the subject line of the email begins with the four characters “ADV:” designating it as commercial communication, or “ADV:ADLT” designating it as sexual, adult material.
The state lawsuit seeks an injunction prohibiting the owners from engaging in the unlawful activities and civil penalties of $2,500 for each violation of state law by both individual defendants, or at least $2 million.

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