New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has taken aim at the growing amount of spam plaguing New York consumers by filing suit against online marketing company MonsterHut and two of its executives.
“Every day, New Yorkers are being inundated with unsolicited commercial e-mails, or spam,” Spitzer said. He called a portion of the spam “a vehicle for fraud” and noted that some of it is “inherently fraudulent,” in addition to being a “real annoyance for the e-mail user.”
Spitzer leveled the suit at MonsterHut, company CEO Todd Pelow and chief technical officer Gary Hartl, accusing them of representing the companys e-mail marketing service as an opt-in offering. Their claims, the suit alleges, are intended to convince outsiders that every consumer who has received commercial e-mail from MonsterHut specifically requested it.
But those claims are patently false, according to the suit, because MonsterHut’s e-mail lists are only partially opt-in and are rife with names of people who have never solicited information from the online marketer. By falsely representing its business practices, Spitzer said, MonsterHut has been profiting by deceiving consumers, advertisers and its Internet access provider.
In just over a year, MonsterHut has assaulted consumers with more than 500 million commercial e-mails, the suit alleges. The missives advertise a wide variety of products and services — but they have not met with the favor of consumers. More than 750,000 people have asked MonsterHut to remove them from its lists.
In addition, MonsterHut’s Internet service provider, PaeTec, has received tens of thousands of complaints from consumers. “Negative consumer response to MonsterHut’s spam has been overwhelming,” the lawsuit filing stated.
PaeTec already has sliced MonsterHut out of its network, following confirmation by a New York appeals court that the marketer ran roughshod over an anti-spamming provision included in the contract it signed with PaeTec.
Spitzer said he wants to ensure that MonsterHut will not be able to continue spamming consumers through yet another ISP.
“We are seeking to prevent MonsterHut from continuing its fraudulent, deceptive and illegal practices, not just over PaeTecs network, but over any ISP in New York,” Spitzer said.
Spitzer petitioned the court to prevent MonsterHut and the two executives named in the suit from falsely representing their actions regarding unsolicited commercial e-mail. Additionally, he wants the court to force MonsterHut to reveal how it gleaned the e-mail addresses of consumers on its lists.
Finally, Spitzer asked that MonsterHut be made to pay civil penalties as well as court costs because it violated New York State’s consumer protection laws.
The suit is further proof that lawmakers are attempting to get tough on spammers. Currently, 22 states have passed anti-spam laws, and Congress also is considering a law to crack down on spam.
“Policymakers will have to separate out the spam that [is meant to] deceive and defraud versus [that which is] irritating,” John Horrigan, senior research specialist at the Pew Internet & American Life Project, told the E-Commerce Times.
Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Montana) has introduced a bill that would strengthen enforcement authority of the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general. Spammers who use deceptive subject lines or fail to respond to consumers’ requests to be taken off contract lists could be fined up to US$30 per e-mail if the bill is signed into law.
In addition, Burns’ bill would pave the way for spammers who hide their identities to be brought up on criminal charges and exposed to lawsuits filed by ISPs.