The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Thursday hit Internet marketer Jumpstart
Technologies with a $900,000 civil fine for violating the CAN-SPAM Act, the
largest penalty to date for a violation of the two-year-old law.
According to the FTC, the San Francisco-based Jumpstart violated the law by
disguising its commercial e-mails as personal messages.
The FTC’s complaint claims that Jumpstart offered free movie tickets in
exchange for the names and e-mail addresses of five or more friends in
connection with its FreeFlixTix promotion.
Jumpstart then sent the friends
commercial e-mails with the consumer’s e-mail address in the From line and a
seemingly personal message in the Subject line.
Jumpstart also made it appear as if the consumer had written the text of the
“These defendants intentionally used personal messages as a cover-up for
commercial messages,” Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer
Protection, said in a statement. “Deceptive subject lines and headers not
only violate the CAN-SPAM Act but also consumer trust.”
The FTC said people received six or more e-mails urging them to join
FreeFlixTix, some containing ads for other products and services offered by
Jumpstart or its partners. When consumers attempted to opt out of the
promotional mailings, they continued receiving offers from Jumpstart for
The FTC’s complaint also claims Jumpstart engaged in deceptive advertising
by misleading consumers about the terms and conditions of the promotion.
offer of a free movie ticket required some consumers to submit their
credit card information to one of Jumpstart’s partners and to sign up for
one of the partner’s promotions.
Other Jumpstart partners required consumers to actually pay for a promotion
while others made free offers that had to be cancelled at a later date to
avoid a charge.