Kansas E-mailer Wins Spam Suit

A Kansas businessman was awarded $500 in damages by a small-claims court for receiving an unsolicited bulk commercial email, marking the first test of that state’s 9-month-old anti-spam law.

Jerry Weinstock, a Kansas City area email marketer and anti-spam activist, sued Naperville, Ill.-based Market Advantage Consulting for $1,000 in damages for sending him an unsolicited email advertising business-analysis software. Weinstock sued under the Kansas Commercial Electronic Mail Act, which requires bulk emailers to include “ADV” in the subject line of commercial email and to include a physical address or phone number in the message.

After a one-day trial, the small claims court in Johnson County awarded Weinstock $500 in damages, plus $51 in court costs. The court ruled that the company was in violation of both parts of the Kansas law, but granted Market Advantage Consulting an exception, saying that Weinstock’s email address could have wound up on their marketing lists by mistake. Weinstock claimed that the company culled his address from either the Kansas City chapter of the American Marketing Association’s Web site or the printed directory.

Kansas is one of 30 states to have an anti-spam measure on the books. Two weeks ago, California inched closer to tightening its spam measures when an anti-spam bill cleared a key legislative hurdle. With pressure building from states, Congress is considering enacting a federal measure. On Friday, the CAN-SPAM Act was introduced into the Senate with the backing of both AOL and Yahoo.

In addition, activists like Weinstock have taken matters in their own hands. Earlier this month, a Maryland anti-spam activist won a legal victory against a notorious spammer who claimed the activist harassed him by hosting a Web site that included personal information about the reputed spammer. A court rejected the argument.

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