SEATTLE - October 22, 1998 - The Attorney General's Office today filed the nation's first state “spamming” lawsuit against a Salem, Oregon business and its owner for using false and misleading information when sending unsolicited commercial e-mail to Washington residents.
The state's lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, alleges Natural Instincts and its owner, Jason Heckel, sent unsolicited commercial e-mail, also known as “spam,” to millions of Internet users to sell his on-line booklet entitled, “How to Profit From the Internet.” A number of those people who received the message were Washington residents.
“Washington Internet users were bombarded by this spammer with e-mail advertisements for a get-rich-quick scheme,” said Attorney General Christine Gregoire. “Consumers didn't know where the message was coming from and weren't told in the subject line of the message what it was about. His spam clearly crossed the boundary from being annoying to being illegal.”
The lawsuit alleges that Heckel used a misleading subject line that read, “Did I get the right e-mail address?” to entice recipients to download and read his entire message. When they brought the message up, consumers discovered it was a sales pitch for the defendant's product which cost $39.95. The lawsuit also alleges the defendant posted an invalid return e-mail address which recipients were unable to respond to.
Washington's law requires a sender of unsolicited commercial e-mail to truthfully identify the e-mail address the message came from. This allows the recipient the ability to reply to the sender directly so they can validate the source of the message or protest receiving it in the first place.
Washington's law, which went into effect in June of this year, was one of the first in the country to regulate the sending of spam. The 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.
Consumers are encouraged to visit the AG website at www.atg.wa.gov to learn more about the new law and ways to protect themselves from receiving unwanted commercial e-mail. Anyone wanting to file a complaint about illegal, unsolicited commercial e-mail should send an e-mail to the Attorney General at email@example.com or call 1-800-551-4636.