Alleged spammer faces $700,000 in fines

By Hayley Hannan

An alleged spammer is accused of selling 50,000 email addresses without the owners' permission. File photo / Thinkstock
An alleged spammer is accused of selling 50,000 email addresses without the owners' permission. File photo / Thinkstock

An alleged spammer and his company could face $700,000 in fines after allegedly selling 50,000 email addresses without the owners' permission.

The Department of Internal Affairs has laid a third set of civil charges against Image Marketing Group and the company's director Brendan Battles through the Auckland High Court registry.

The latest charges seek financial penalties of $200,000 against Mr Battles and $500,000 against his company, the maximum penalty under the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007.

The claims follow IMG's marketing of a database of an estimated 50,000 email addresses through an unsolicited electronic message.

A businessman bought the database and used it to market his goods and services with commercial emails. He received 400 email complaints in reply, and the Department's anti-spam compliance unit also received a flurry of complaints.

The businessman alleges that when he bought the database, IMG assured him it complied with the necessary legislation and the email holders had given their permission to be contacted, said senior investigator Toni Demetriou.

The first two set of charges were laid with the court in February. The Department applied for an injunction to stop Mr Battles from sending commercial electronic messages ending with .nz without getting consent, and from selling unconsented email databases in New Zealand.

The sale of databases in New Zealand by IMG continues to cause problems for people who purchase them, he said.

Internal Affairs was continuing to investigate businesses that have bought the database, and some had been fined for breaching the act.

"There is a misconception and a misrepresentation made that, under the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act, an individual or organisation can send business-to-business commercial electronic messages. This is not so," he said.

"You need to have appropriate consent before sending any commercial electronic messages, and, if deemed consent is being relied upon, then the messages that are sent must be relevant to the business, role, functions or duties of the recipient in a business or official capacity."

Internal Affairs previously prosecuted three New Zealanders involved in a major international spam network in 2008.

The network marketed 'pharmaceutical products' such as male-enhancement pills, prescription drugs and weight-loss pills.

Brothers Lance and Shane Atkinson were ordered to pay $100,000 each and Roland Smits $50,000 by the Christchurch High Court.

Lance Atkinson was ordered to pay $18.4m by a US Federal Judge following separate action by the Federal Trade Commission.

- APNZ

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