Wednesday, June 7, 2006

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Attorney General Abbott Wins State’S First Spam Case

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today announced a final judgment totaling more than $10 million in civil penalties and attorneys’ fees paid by one of the largest and most notorious e-mail “spammers” in the world, which has resulted in shutting down the operation. The case was filed in federal court in January 2005 against a former University of Texas student and others.

The former student, Ryan Pitylak, and partners Mark Trotter, Gary Trappler and Alan Refaeli agreed to numerous strict limitations if they ever send commercial e-mail in the future, including clearly identifying e-mails as unsolicited commercial advertising, or “spam.”

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Final judgment against Ryan Pitylak and others

“Spam e-mail is not only pervasive in our society but is one of the most aggravating problems computer users face,” said Attorney General Abbott. “Today’s crackdown effectively shuts down one of the worst spam operators and sends a warning to others who would engage in spam e-mailing for profit.”

The defendants and their businesses – known as Leadplex Inc., Payperaction L.L.C. and Eastmark Technology, Ltd. – bombarded consumers with millions of e-mails under at least 250 assumed names. They engaged in the illegal practice of using misleading email subject lines to give recipients the false impression the e-mails contained information important to them. However, by law commercial e-mails must clearly identify that they are advertising and must not be used to trick consumers into responding.

Consumers who responded to these e-mails revealed information about themselves after being assured their privacy would be protected. In fact, the defendants sold this information to other companies who were free to use the information in any manner they chose.

The case was brought under the federal CAN SPAM law, which stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003, as well as the Texas Electronic Mail Solicitation Act and the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Congress passed the act recognizing the growing threat of spam to the efficiencies of e-mail networks.

Consumers who encounter what they believe to be e-mail spam file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (800) 252-8011 or file a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov