After four years the California Attorney General has finally launched the first prosecution under the state’s 1998 anti spam law.
Topic: Email Marketing
Who: California Attorney General Bill Lockyer and PW Marketing LLC
Where: The Santa Clara County Superior Court
When: October 2002
Email marketing specialist PW Marketing of California advertised its "California Gold" list of 4,000,000 email addresses belonging to California residents and businesses. This was available for purchase at $349.
The California Attorney General's lawsuit against PW Marketing accuses it of sending millions of unsolicited commercial emails promoting books and software in contravention of anti-email legislation introduced in California in 1998. This made unsolicited commercial email illegal unless the sender included a toll-free telephone number, a valid email address to which the recipient can send a request to be removed from the list, or includes the words "ADV" or "ADV: ADLT" in the subject line, designating the email as either commercial or containing adult material.
Why this matters:
Seeking a maximum of $2,000,000 in penalties, this suit appears to be the first that has been launched since the 1998 law was enacted. As in most other countries in the world, the introduction of anti-spam legislation has been somewhat easier than its enforcement. Paul Willis of PW Marketing has boasted that officials cannot hurt him. "The worst thing they can do is get a civil judgment against me", he is reported as saying "I am not dumb enough to keep any assets in my name".
One recent estimate suggests that 76 billion spam emails will be sent worldwide in 2003 and another estimate indicates that 27% of all today's emails can be classified as "spam".
Here in the UK, 21 August 2002 was the date on which the country's first dedicated spam controls were brought into force. This was by way of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002, reported elsewhere on marketing.co.uk. Fines of up to $2,000,000 are not going to be meted out against those who transgress our regulations, but it remains to be seen whether here in the UK we will have to wait 4 years, as in California, for our equivalent regulations to be enforced.