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Attorney General Lockyer Wins First-Ever State Lawsuit Against Spammer
Court Curbs PW Marketing's Business Practices and Requires Firm to Pay $2 Million
(SAN JOSE) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today won the State of California's first-ever anti-spam lawsuit when the Santa Clara County Superior Court ordered PW Marketing and owners Paul Willis and Claudia Griffin to pay $2 million in civil penalties for violating state laws prohibiting unsolicited commercial email, false advertising and unfair business practices.
"Spam is an annoying invasion of privacy for our citizens and a costly burden to our businesses at a time when we're trying get the economy back on track," said Lockyer. "We will continue to strongly enforce our anti-spam laws to protect Californians from this high tech pollutant. Spam cost American businesses about $9 billion in lost productivity and screening expenses in 2002, when spam accounted for roughly 40 percent of all email."
The judgment entered by the court today came in the first action filed by the State of California under its anti-spam law. Lockyer filed the lawsuit in September 2002.
Besides the $2 million in civil penalties, the judgment substantially restricts the business practices of PW Marketing, Willis and Griffin. In future enforcement actions, the Attorney General's Office will use these "injunctive relief " provisions as a model. Specifically, the provisions prohibit the defendants from:
Sending unsolicited commercial emails.
Disguising their identity by sending email that appears to originate from an email address that is neither the actual address nor the address where replies can be received.
Sending emails that contain false or misleading information about the country or Internet mail server from where the advertisement is sent.
Accessing and using the computers, computer systems or computer networks of other persons or businesses without their permission or in violation of their terms of service.
Using false or misleading information to register for an email address, Internet service or Internet domain name.
Using, transferring or otherwise making available to other persons email address lists compiled for the purpose of sending spam.
For 10 years, owning, managing or holding any economic interest in any company that advertises over the Internet, without first providing written notice to the Attorney General.
The lawsuit alleged the defendants sent millions of unsolicited email advertisements promoting products that PW Marketing claimed would help the recipients make money through spam. The defendants' spam hawked books, software and lists of email addresses.
California's anti-spam law will be strengthened under a new statute that takes effect Jan. 1, 2004 (SB 186, Murray). The law prohibits unsolicited email advertisements sent to or from any California email address, unless the recipient gives prior permission (under current law the recipient has to opt out), or has an existing business relationship with the sender. It also permits private individuals to sue spammers and collect actual damages, plus $1,000 per email and up to $1 million per incident.
Lockyer encouraged Californians who believe they have received spam to file complaints with the Attorney General's Office. Complaints can be filed by writing the Public Inquiry Unit at P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550. Californians who receive spam at their email addresses also can send examples to the Attorney General's Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.