FTC Files Spam Complaints, Releases Progress Report

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The Federal Trade Commission made public yesterday six complaints and two settlements involving allegations of spam as part of its new Operation Button Pusher initiative.

During a press conference highlighting the initiative, Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, also discussed the FTC's "Effectiveness and Enforcement of the CAN-SPAM Act" report, which the commission delivered to Congress this month.

"Technological advances mean less spam is getting through to our in-boxes," Parnes said. "At the same time, both consumer and commercial marketers are making increased use of legitimate e-mail."

However, she acknowledged that problems remain.

"Today's spammers are sending increasingly malicious spam," she said.

One complaint was filed Nov. 29 in U.S. District Count for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division. Judge William J. Hibbler granted a temporary restraining order and asset freeze Dec. 7 against defendant Zachary A. Kinion, accused of CAN-SPAM violations in e-mails advertising mortgage opportunities, adult entertainment, privacy software and online pharmaceuticals.

Another complaint was filed Dec. 8 in the same court against Brian McMullen, doing business as BM Entertainment and B Pimp. He also is alleged to have violated CAN-SPAM with messages advertising mortgage opportunities, adult entertainment and pharmaceuticals. A temporary restraining order is pending.

An FTC complaint also was filed Nov. 28 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle. A preliminary injunction and asset freeze were entered Dec. 7 against defendants Matthew Olson and Jennifer LeRoy, who allegedly violated CAN-SPAM through e-mail promotions of goods and services including mortgage opportunities and a device said to increase a car's gas mileage.

In all three cases, the defendants are accused of violating CAN-SPAM by using false headers and false subject lines, failing to include clear and conspicuous opt-out mechanisms and failing to include the sender's physical address.

Three other complaints were filed this month in the United States as part of Operation Button Pusher by attorneys general in Florida, North Carolina and Texas. All three allege CAN-SPAM violations involving various marketing e-mails.

Also, Andrea Rosen, assistant deputy commissioner of the Canadian Competition Bureau's Fair Business Branch Two, participated in the press conference and discussed two settlements. Both were civil cases alleging reviewable conduct under the deceptive-marketing provisions of the Canadian Competition Act. Consent agreements were filed with defendants Mike Stothers, Cory Grattan and Tracey Grattan.

In its report to Congress, the FTC recommended three steps to improve CAN-SPAM's effectiveness:

· Passage by Congress of the U.S. SAFE WEB Act to trace spammers outside the United States.

· Continued consumer education efforts.

· Continued improvement of anti-spam technology.

Parnes reiterated the FTC's stance that a do-not-e-mail registry is not a practical solution to spam issues. She said the commission still collects 300,000 spam e-mails a day.

The report cited the adoption of e-mail best practices by legitimate marketers and the more than 50 cases under CAN-SPAM brought by the FTC, Justice Department, state attorneys general and ISPs as proof of the act's effectiveness.

Kristen Bremner covers list news, insert media, privacy and fundraising for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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