New York sues bulk e-mailer

The New York state attorney general's office filed suit against bulk e-mailer MonsterHut Inc. yesterday, alleging that the company spammed consumers with 500 million e-mails and falsely claimed that consumers asked to receive those messages.

Under New York state law, the company could be fined US$500 for each violation. However, attorney general spokesman Brad Mione said no monetary damages have been specified in the suit.

"We are seeking to prevent MonsterHut from continuing its fraudulent, deceptive and illegal practices, not just over [Internet service provider] PaeTec's network, but over any ISP in New York," Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said in a statement.

Spitzer charged that MonsterHut CEO Todd Pelow and Chief Technology Officer Gary Hartl falsely advertised their e-mail services as opt-in, or permission-based, meaning that consumers gave the Niagara Falls, N.Y.-based company permission to send them e-mails. Spitzer said only a portion of the company's e-mail customers actually gave that permission.

In addition, 750,000 people have asked to be removed from MonsterHut's e-mail lists; the total number of consumers on MonsterHut's lists was not specified. Part of what Spitzer wants from the company is a detailed explanation of how and where it obtained its e-mail lists.

Company officials could not be reached for comment at deadline.

The suit adds to the company's legal difficulties. On May 6, MonsterHut's Internet service provider, Fairport, N.Y.-based PaeTec Communications Inc., won the right to disconnect MonsterHut in New York Supreme Court. PaeTec had been barred from disconnecting MonsterHut for 13 months by an injunction from a lower court.

No trial date has been set, and the two parties are expected to enter negotiations aimed at reaching a settlement soon.

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