RealTime IT News

FTC Settles with Pop-up Ad Operators

The operators of one of the most notorious pop-up ad schemes of last year have agreed to discontinue their practices in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

According to the FTC, Anish Dhingra and Jeffrey Davis, doing business as D Squared Solutions, used the Windows Messenger Service feature, typically used to provide system messages such as completed print jobs, to unfairly harass consumers with ads for their pop-up blocking software.

The FTC says D Squared placed their "stop pop-ups" ads near the center of users' computer screens, blocking the users' work. The primary goal of the operators was to barrage consumers' computers with pop-up ads so they would purchase the pop-up blocking software sold by D Squared.

The ads appeared as long as the users were connected to the Internet, causing particular trouble for those always connected with DSL lines or cable modems. After selling consumers the $25 to $30 pop-up blocking software, the FTC says users continued to be hit by the pop-ups, even when they were offline and working in other applications, such as word processing or spreadsheet programs.

The agency also claims D Squared sold or licensed its pop-up-sending software to other people, allowing others to use the same intrusive scheme to send millions of additional pop-ups.

The FTC in November charged that the practices were unfair and violated the FTC Act. The settlement announced Monday ends that litigation against D Squared Solutions, Dhingra and Davis.

The settlement bars the defendants from sending Windows Messenger Service pop-up advertising and from sending instant message advertising. It also bars them from advertising, promoting, marketing or selling Windows Messenger Service pop-up-blocking software or Windows Messenger Service pop-up-sending software. It requires the defendants to provide an opt-out mechanism for electronic advertising and bars them from using deceptive return addresses in their e-mail.