Legal Gray Zone: Firms Sued For Sending Unsolicited Email

The great debate over unsolicited email has ended up where some say it belongs: in court.

In a case on file in San Francisco, Mira Blanchard and others accused several firms and third-party ad networks of sending almost 600 “unlawful, unsolicited commercial emails,” Legal Newsline reports.

“No Plaintiff gave direct consent to receive commercial email advertisements from, or had a preexisting or current business relationship with, the entities advertised in the spams,” states the complaint on file with the San Francisco County Superior Court, Legal Newsline continued. 

Sounds like this could happen to any firm, doesn’t it? Send a few emails by mistake, and you could end up with a class-action lawsuit filed against you.

But this was no innocent clerical error, if you believe the complaint. The plaintiffs charge that the firms included false email headers, subject lines and email content, Legal Newsline continues. And they used the domain names of third parties without permission, the papers state.



All this violates the California Business & Professions Code, the complaint adds.

The defendants include Fluent, Reward Zone, American Prize Center, Rewardsflow LLC, Panda Mail, AdReaction, Concept Network and several individuals.

Whoever they are, they are not going quietly. Several defendants have asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to take up the case and remove it from the local court.

And Sauphtware Inc., which also does business as Panda Mail, has filed a motion asking for a wholesale dismissal of the plaintiffs’ first amended complaint. The problem? The complaint fails to state a claim, according to Legal Newsline.  

Some observers might say: That’s California for you. It has the toughest privacy laws in the nation.

But we wonder whether these types of actions could spread. The plaintiffs, although they are claiming damages, argue that they do not need to prove such harm to have legal standing.

They’re seeking “liquidated damages” of $1,000 per email, plus attorneys’ fees.

Now we’re no lawyers, but it seems to us that this is a two-part case.

First, there’s the spam claim. That’s the dangerous one because it could allow any person to sue if they get an unsolicited email. 

Then there’s the fraudulent copy claims. True or not, this seems more like a routine scam case.  

Hopefully, the court will examine these issues separately, and not use one to drive precedent in the other. That’s why we say this belongs in court—hopefully, a fair, discerning court.  

Speaking of California—and the courts—there’s another privacy related case going on Los Angeles.

As Davis Lazarus reports today, a Virginia resident named Thomas Robins is waging a case against Spokeo, a  “people search” website.

Spokeo allegedly helps users “know more about the people in their lives,” by providing access to “social-media profiles, court records, criminal records, names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, marital status and more,” Lazarus writes.

Robins charges that the information on him was wrong. Spokeo “incorrectly stated that he was in his 50s, that he was married, that he was employed in a professional or technical field, and that he has children,” according to Lazarus.

And Robins allege that Spokeo “violated federal law by not making reasonable efforts to confirm the info before selling it to third parties,” Lazarus continues.

Don’t expect it to be resolved soon. “For the last six years, the two sides have been wrangling over Robins’ standing to bring the lawsuit,” Lazarus points out.



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