February 26, 2007 12:02 PM PST

Verizon Wireless wins injunction against text spam

Verizon Wireless said Monday that it has won a permanent injunction against a company it accused of sending text message spam, a significant step in keeping the unsolicited messages off cell phones.

In the judgment, Specialized Programming and Marketing and its owner, Charles Henderson, are prohibited from sending text message spam to Verizon Wireless customers. They are also required to pay damages in excess of $200,000. Verizon Wireless filed the suit after nearly 100,000 text messages were sent to Verizon Wireless customers offering them a prize vacation for a cruise to the Bahamas.

Initially, Verizon Wireless filed the suit against Passport Holidays in October 2005 in U.S. District Court in Trenton, N.J. The mobile operator won a permanent injunction against Passport Holidays in February 2006 to stop the company from sending further spam. Passport also was required to pay $10,000 in damages to Verizon Wireless.

During litigation, Passport Holidays named Specialized Programming and Marketing and Henderson as the company and individual that actually sent the spam that formed the basis for the suit. In February 2006, Verizon Wireless filed an amended complaint naming Specialized Programming and Marketing and Henderson. This latest decision brings the case to a conclusion, Verizon Wireless said.

Neither Specialized Programming and Marketing nor Henderson could be reached for comment on Monday.

Companies and individuals who send unsolicited text messages to wireless phones violate the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act by using "auto-dialing" equipment to send large bursts of text messages to sequential phone numbers within very short periods of time. These spammers also often use deceptive means to hide the identity of who is sending the spam and to avoid filters that Verizon Wireless and other mobile operators use to prevent spam from reaching their customers.

Text message spam has been on the rise in the past couple of years. But compared with e-mail spam, it is still a drop in the bucket. Still, wireless operators realize that a severe outbreak of cell phone spam could severely damage their reputations, a key concern as they look to include text-based advertising in their business models.

Verizon Wireless has been one of the most aggressive carriers in battling spam. Over the past two years, Verizon Wireless has filed lawsuits against several companies it has accused of sending text message spam to its customers.

"Text messaging is a great and increasingly popular way to communicate, but unwanted or unsolicited text message spam to our customers' handsets is unacceptable," Steve Zipperstein, vice president of legal and external affairs at Verizon Wireless, said in a statement. "We have a long track record of protecting our customers' privacy, including through lawsuits, and will continue to do so."

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5 comments

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Good luck in collecting that money
Spam companies change names and ownership so quickly to avoid issues like this that even though a judgement has been made, there's nobody around to pay it. It's a nice win, but empty.
Posted by Vegaman_Dan (6683 comments )
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What about the customers?
The thing I'm most interested in: did the customers receive any compensation for the SMSpam? You know, the $0.10/message or whatever they charge (I know Cingular is the $.10/message) just for the fact that a message got sent to your phone?

On a related note, that is one of the reasons why SMSpam is worse than email-base Spam: it costs the receiver money, in addition to it's simply being even more intrusive than email Spam.
Posted by CoderForChrist (40 comments )
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Great question!
My guess is unless you squawked about it then they won't bother crediting you. How many kids got these and simply deleted it without a thought?

And yes, Verizon is typically $.10/msg.
Posted by ejevo (134 comments )
Link Flag
Verizon doesn't care about customers!
In case you didn't notice, Verizon didn't sue them because they
were bothering customers. Verizon sued them because Verizon
want's to be the ONLY one text spamming their customers. It's
their new business model. I left Verizon because of this attitude
towards customers. I received several text spams and you have
to reply to each one with a special code, and then you get
another message for confirmation, then you have to send
another text to a different number and so on. It's a huge pain in
the A$S and ends up costing about 50-60 cents each time you
get one. Verizons response? All we can do is completely disable
text messaging on the account for you if you want. Sure...disable
the whole account! I'm moving to Cingular! And I did.
Posted by rhett121 (73 comments )
Link Flag
Let it be a lesson to the others
The courts are being pretty consistent in dealing with the scum of the Internet (a.k.a. SPAMMERS). No matter what you think or believe, you do not have the right to send people messages that they do not wish to receive.
Posted by thenet411 (415 comments )
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