Privacy Lawsuit vs. DMA: Lost Before It Started

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A privacy lawsuit against the Direct Marketing Association was thrown out immediately by the California Superior Court.

Dr. James Gardner of the Internet Marketing Center of California claimed that the DMA had sent nine unsolicited faxes after he had contacted the trade organization several times requesting that he be taken off their fax lists. He attempted to sue the DMA for $4,500.

However, Gardner said he erroneously filed the complaint in the civil court under the assumption that a 1920s law saying unwanted messages could be penalized by $500 an item was still in effect. A 1998 law that requires a district attorney to press such charges has usurped the old legislation.

"If they send me another fax, I may go to the D.A. and see if he wants to do anything with it," Gardner said yesterday.

The judge ruled last week that the DMA had to cover Gardner's court costs of $20, said Jerry Hawkins, chairman of the trade organization's California South Coast Chapter in Torrance. Hawkins stood in for the national DMA at the court proceedings.

"He obviously had an ax to grind," Hawkins said. "Eventually, the judge looked at him and then looked at me and asked us what we were doing there."

Gardner had tried to settle the issue out of court on June 14. He e-mailed the DMA offering the idea of dropping the dispute in exchange for two years of unlimited free attendance to any of its events, along with the opportunity to speak at one of its annual conferences.

The DMA rejected the proposal.

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