Verizon settles lawsuit against spammer

The owner of a Detroit-based commercial e-mail company has agreed to a permanent injunction barring him from sending spam to customers of Verizon Online, a unit of Verizon Communications.

Under the settlement reached Friday, Alan Ralsky -- whose company Additional Benefits LLC is thought to be one of the largest senders of bulk e-mail -- will also have to pay Verizon a monetary settlement. Bobbi Henson, a spokeswoman for Reston, Va.-based Verizon, declined to release financial details of the settlement.

Henson said the injunction covers thousands of e-mail domain names owned by Verizon, including verizon.net, verizon, and vzw.com. However, Henson said the settlement doesn't include companies whose Internet service is hosted by Verizon but who have their own domain names.

Neither Ralsky nor his attorneys could be reached for comment this morning.

In March 2001, Verizon Online sued Ralsky and Additional Benefits in federal court in Virginia alleging that the defendants had flooded customers with unsolicited commercial e-mail in 2000 advertising such items as diet pills, online gambling, credit repair tools and new car buying services. Verizon Online has 1.64 million Internet subscribers in 40 states.

According to the complaint, these spam messages violated both federal and Virginia state laws barring unsolicited bulk e-mail sent to Internet service providers such as Verizon Online that have adopted strict policies against spam.

Henson said Verizon initially wanted to shut down Ralsky and Additional Benefits completely but decided it had accomplished its goal through the settlement.

"We achieved what we really wanted, which was to prohibit Mr. Ralsky and his company from ever again spamming our customers on any of our domains," Henson said.

John Mozena, a spokesman for the Detroit-based Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail, said the settlement is too narrow to make much of an impact. He had hoped the settlement would have included corporate networks that had their own domain names but were hosted by Verizon.

In addition, Mozena said there should be legislation in place to help the average consumer targeted by spammers. Right now, only large companies such as Verizon and America Online Inc. have the resources to pursue spammers in court.

"We need legislation so people who are affected by spam can get some sort of remedy," Mozena said.

But he said a greater good came of the settlement. "This settlement is one more brick in the case we're building against unsolicited spam," he said.

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