SEATTLE - February 10, 1999 - The Attorney General's Office today filed Washington's second lawsuit under the state's new junk e-mail law, alleging a Georgia business owner “spammed” Washington computers with unsolicited sales pitches that contained false and misleading information.
The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, alleges Sam Khuri, owner of Benchmark Print Supply in Atlanta, solicits customers over the Internet by using unsolicited e-mail, also known as “spam,” in violation of Washington's junk e-mail law.
“Spammers need to know we mean business,” said Attorney General Christine Gregoire. “It's more than just an annoyance to receive e-mail sales pitches that are misleading or contain a false return address. In this state, it's illegal.”
The lawsuit alleges that Khuri used letters and numbers (“w37,” “bg08”) in the subject line instead of describing the content of the message or the products being sold; manipulated information in the e-mail header to make it appear the message came from another computer; and made it impossible for recipients to reply to messages by using false or non-existent return e-mail addresses.
More than 50 individuals filed complaints against Khuri, many of whom received multiple e-mails from him. Since the law went into effect in June of last year, more than 1,600 complaints have been received at the Attorney General's junk e-mail complaint mailbox, email@example.com.
In October, the Attorney General's Office filed its first case against Jason Heckel, a Salem, Oregon spammer who does business as Natural Instincts. Heckel used e-mail to sell his on-line booklet, “How to Profit From the Internet.” The lawsuit is still pending.
Washington's law prohibits the sending of unsolicited commercial e-mail that contains misleading information in its subject line, uses a third party's domain name without permission, or misrepresents the message's point of origin. The state is asking for civil penalties of up to $2,000 for each violation, appropriate restitution for consumers and reimbursement of legal costs and fees.
The state Legislature is currently considering amendments that would strengthen Washington's law. House Bill 1037 would make it a violation for those who assist spammers or enable them to violate the law. In addition, it would give Internet service providers a right to sue spammers who use their networks in violation of the providers' policies.