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Post date: May 28 2002

State Lawsuit Seeks To End Spam Emails Sent By Niagara Falls Company

Attorney General Spitzer today filed a lawsuit against a Niagara Falls-based "spammer" that sent hundreds of millions of emails to consumers whom it falsely claimed had requested the emails.

"Every day New Yorkers are being inundated with unsolicited commercial emails, or spam," Spitzer said. "Some of the spam is a vehicle for fraud, some of the spam is inherently fraudulent, and much of it constitutes a real annoyance for email user. This lawsuit is the next battle in our continuing fight against online fraud, and an attempt to help consumers maintain control of their email in-boxes."

MonsterHut, Inc., its Chief Executive Officer Todd Pelow and its Chief Technical Officer Gary Hartl, are accused of fraudulently advertising and representing the company’s email marketing service as "permission based" or "opt-in," meaning that every consumer to whom they send commercial email has explicitly asked to receive it. In fact, the suit alleges, the company’s email lists are only partly "opt-in," and include many consumers who never asked to receive email from the company. The suit also alleges that this false representation of MonsterHut’s business practices enabled the company to profit through the deception its Internet access provider, its own paid advertisers, and consumers at large.

The suit alleges that since March 2001, MonsterHut has flooded consumers’ email in-boxes with more than 500 million commercial emails, advertising a variety of goods and services. At the same time, negative consumer response to MonsterHut’s spam has been overwhelming. More than 750,000 consumers have requested to be removed from MonsterHut’s mailing lists, and tens of thousands have complained to MonsterHut’s internet access provider, PaeTec Communications, Inc., of Rochester.

Earlier this month, PaeTec cut off MonsterHut from its network, after a New York appeals court held that MonsterHut had violated an anti-spamming provision in its contract with PaeTec. However, nothing in that decision prevented MonsterHut from spamming consumers through another internet service provider.
"We are seeking to prevent MonsterHut from continuing its fraudulent, deceptive and illegal practices, not just over PaeTec’s network, but over any ISP in New York," Spitzer said.

The Attorney General is seeking a court order to:

  • Enjoin MonsterHut, Pelow, and Hartl from falsely representing the nature of their unsolicited commercial email;

  • Require MonsterHut, Pelow and Hartl to disclose how it obtained all the consumers’ email addresses; and

  • Require MonsterHut, Pelow and Hartl to pay civil penalties and court costs for its violations of New York’s consumer protection laws.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Stephen Kline of Attorney General Spitzer's Internet Bureau.


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