Solicitors Slam Sprint’s Spam Strategy

A Utah law firm filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of the state’s
estimated 1.4 million Internet users Thursday, claiming Sprint Corp.
has conducted an illegal spam campaign since early May.

According to Sprint spokesperson Lisa Brady, the company “doesn’t comment
on pending litigation.” The case, filed Thursday at the Third District Court
of Salt Lake County in Salt Lake City, is in the discovery mode right now,
where each side tries to dig up as much information on the others
activities before a scheduled status conference in October.

That doesn’t mean the carrier giant has been sitting this one out until
now; in fact, the company has already filed a motion against plaintiff
Terry Gillmann, demanding he send his hard drive to Sprint lawyers as part
of the discovery process.

The problem with that, according to Denver Snuffer, a partner at the law
firm trying the case, is that Gillmann doesn’t have a computer in his
house. Since Gillmann’s America Online account is Web-based, he reads his
e-mail through his work computer, the city library and on a friend’s computer.

“When he’s on the computer, [Gillmann] has a limited amount of time to go
through his e-mails,” Snuffer said. “[One day] he had to go through more
than 40 spam e-mails just to read two messages that were legitimate
messages. He simply had enough.”

Judge Denise Lindberg, the judge presiding over the case, struck the motion
down, and admonished both sides not to purge any electronic records related
to the case.

Utah passed legislation May 6 outlining specific guidelines for any company
sending unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE) to its population. All must
have an “ADV:” tagline in the subject line of the e-mail, a valid Internet
domain name, the company and street address and a convenient method to
opt-out of the promotion.

The e-mail that sent Gillmann to the
lawyers was a hybrid text/image promotional. Anyone who’s ever dealt with
downloading images using a dial-up account knows how long that process
takes to begin with in the first place. Investigation of the UCE shows it
violates most of the Utah UCE requirements: the e-mail came from someone
at “[email protected],” didn’t include a street address, had no opt-out
link and had no “ADV:” tagline.

The UCE statue in Utah levies a $10 per day per person fine,
retroactive to the date of the offense, against any company found guilty of
delivering spam to Utah residents. So far, 25 people have added their
names to the class action lawsuit, a number Snuffer expects to grow
considerably, once word gets out. He expects that easily 100,000 residents
have been affected by the spam promotion.

The 25 people signed up so far wouldn’t put much of a dent in Sprint’s
pocketbook; the filing is retroactive to May 7, meaning a payout today
would cost the carrier $21,750. But if 2,500 residents sign up for what
amounts to free money in a lawsuit cashout, it hits the statute’s $25,000
per day cap. The maximum penalty possible is $750,000.

“Hopefully, Sprint, not just as a generator of spam but as a provider of a
service or network which spam is delivered will take notice,” Snuffer
said. “Ultimately, enough public attention will be brought with this so
that the incidences of spam will decrease. The (Utah) statute isn’t
self-enforceable, people have to bring claims forth in order for it to take
effect.”

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