Businessman wins e-mail case

AN Essex businessman has won a groundbreaking case against an Internet marketing firm that has been forced to pay him damages for sending him unwanted emails.

By Roddy Ashworth

AN Essex businessman has won a groundbreaking case against an Internet marketing firm that has been forced to pay him damages for sending him unwanted emails.

In what is believed to be the first action of its kind under a new European law, Nigel Roberts, from Manningtree, has successfully claimed damages from a sender of bulk emails in a judgement that could kerb the menace of “spammers”.

A county court judge in Colchester awarded judgement to Mr Roberts in October and ordered there should be a hearing to decide damages on January 4.

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But Media Logistics UK Ltd, which sent out the unsolicited email advert and promotions, last week agreed to pay Mr Roberts damages and costs in an out-of-court settlement.

The company, based in Falkirk, Stirlingshire boasts it offers “electronic direct marketing” but it ran into trouble when it sent unwanted material to Mr Roberts, who runs a successful Internet business in the Channel Islands.

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Three years ago the EU passed an “anti spam” law - the Directive on Privacy and Telecommunications - which gives individuals the right to fight the growing tirade of unwanted email by allowing them to claim damages.

So when Mr Roberts, 37, received unwanted email advertisements for a contract car firm and a fax broadcasting business he decided to go to law.

He said: “The new law gives anyone who is spammed the right to seek damages against the originators of the unwanted email, fax or text message.

“I wrote to the company asking for an apology and claimed damages under Regulation 30 of the privacy law.

“I also asked under the Data Protection Act for details of data that the company had obtained and stored about me - and I particularly wanted to know who had supplied them with my email address.

“When they declined to give the information or make an offer I issued a claim against them in England - where the company is incorporated - under anti spam laws.”

The company filed an acknowledgement of the claim at the county court in Colchester but did not defend it.

Now the firm has agreed an out of court settlement in which they will pay him damages of £270 and his £30 claim fee.

Mr Roberts launched his action in the small claims court and so was limited in the amount of damages he could expect.

But legal experts say that in higher courts much larger sums could be awarded against spammers.

He added: “It shows that wherever they are they can be held responsible for sending spam to anyone living in a British Isles jurisdiction or anyone with a UK address.

“This may be a tiny victory but perhaps now spammers will begin to realise that people don't have to put up with their email inboxes being filled with unwanted junk.

“It may even help in the fight against spammers in the US - one of the main sources - since English legal judgements can be enforced in America.”

No-one from the marketing firm was available for comment yesterday.

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