Finally, a Victory in The War Against Spam

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer hailed a decision by a Manhattan Supreme Court to enjoin accused spammer MonsterHut from falsely representing its e-mail marketing messages.

Justice Lottie Wilkins’ ruling forbids Niagara Falls, N.Y.-based MonsterHut and its two top executives from “further engaging in any of the fraudulent, deceptive and illegal acts and practices” relating to the company’s claim that its marketing service is opt-in or opt-out.

Last May, the attorney general’s office filed a deceptive business practices suit against MonsterHut, accusing it of fraudulently claiming to offer opt-out and opt-in e-mail services, when it was really sending massive batches of unsolicited commercial e-mails. MonsterHut’s chief executive, Todd Pelow, and chief technology officer, Gary Hartl, were also named in the complaint.

According to the attorney general’s office, MonsterHut had sent out over 500 million messages since January 2001, misrepresenting its e-mails as opt-in to both consumers in the e-mail and to potential advertisers on its Web site. The company also ignored requests from at least 750,000 consumers to be taken off their lists, according to the attorney general.

“New Yorkers are being overwhelmed with unsolicited commercial e-mail,” Sptizer said. “This decision is another victory in our continuing battle against online fraud and will help consumers maintain control of their e-mail in-boxes.”

Attempts to reach MonsterHut officials for comment were unsuccessful.

MonsterHut argued that its e-mail messages were opt-in, since it believed the third-party list providers it bought the addresses from had gotten consumers’ consent to receive marketing messages.

Shortly before Spitzer took action, MonsterHut’s Internet service provider, PaeTec, cut the company from its network, after it won a legal skirmish and a court found that MonsterHut had violated the anti-spam provision in its ISP agreement.

The court plans a hearing on Feb. 11 to consider further issues, including damage penalties against MonsterHut.

With polls increasingly showing the public supportive of legislative remedies to combat spam, state governments have been more assertive recently in combating spam. Nearly two dozen have passed some form of anti-spam legislation. In the fall, Missouri considered extrapolating its “do not call” list to cover e-mail marketing — a move legitimate e-mail marketers oppose as unfair to their industry.