Harris Interactive Files Suit Against ISPs

Internet research firm Harris Interactive this week filed claims against some of the industry’s biggest names in a multi-party lawsuit that charges America Online, Microsoft, Qwest and several other ISPs with restraint of trade for blocking its ability to send e-mail to its users.

In U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, Harris Interactive is charging that the ISPs have improperly suspended its ability to send e-mails because of its listing on the Mail Abuse Prevention Systems’ Realtime Blackhole List. Harris claims to have been placed on the RBL in error and has named MAPS, a Redwood, CA-based anti-spam watchdog, in the lawsuit as well.

The ISP’s blocking has affected 2.7 million of Harris’s 6.6 million panel members, including 600,000 of which are active participants in its Internet-conducted market research, according to Harris Interactive, Rochester, NY. The suspension is also preventing some parties from accessing Harris Interactive’s Web sites and joining its Interactive panel, the suit claims.

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief and significant monetary damages from AOL, Microsoft’s Hotmail unit, Qwest, Juno Online Services, Bell South and a handful of other ISP defendants. In specific, charges include anti-trust violations, interference with business, commercial disparagement, negligence and defamation.

In a prepared statement, Harris Interactive’s chairman and CEO, Gordon Black, said his company had no remedy other than legal action.

“MAPS and ISPs have created a process that permits them effectively both to deprive us of the use of our property without any due process, to interfere with our legitimate business activities and to allow our direct competitors to damage us without any recourse,” Black said. “The damage to us will be significant and we intend to pursue redress to the highest courts if need be.”

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