Spam wars - "determination of damages" hearing date set

Posted on Thu 10 January 2008 in Internet

Taking a spammer to court to get them to stop isn't for the faint of heart.

Here's the history:
A company, "Cybernet Media" (stick on the end of that and you'll find their website, I'll not give them the benefit of a link) started sending spam way back in 2006.
I asked them to stop, they continued.
I pointed out to them that by sending it they are breaking The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. I asked them to reply and confirm they would stop sending the spam. I said that if they send any more I'll bill them 50 per email for my time so far. I said if they didn't reply I'd take more formal action.
They didn't reply, I didn't get round to taking the formal action... until they sent 2 more emails. I phoned them and faxed them. They said by phone they'd stop but decided to send 4 more emails within 24 hours. This was now August 2007.
So, I sent them an invoice for 6 emails. They didn't pay or respond.
I called them again in September and said if they don't pay I'd take them to court. They didn't pay so I started a small claims court action against them.

Here I made a mistake: I asked for the damages plus a statement from them that they would comply with the regulations in future. That meant it had to have a "directions hearing" which of course cybernet didn't turn up to either. Still the result of the directions hearing was headed by a line: "1. There be judgement for the claimant for damages to be determined by the court" - so I guess that means they agree I have a claim the only question left is how much.

I now know the small claims court can't make people say they will comply with regulations (that's what the judge explained to me in the directions hearing). To do so I would have to take out an injunction. If they break the injunction and send more spam, they commit a criminal offence of contempt of court (and could even go to prison for that). Problem is I still haven't figured out how exactly what to do to take out an injunction. At the moment all I'm claiming from them is the damages from them sending spam and me having to chase them to pay the damages (which, incidentally, they've never contested. They haven't even replied to the court which as directors of a limited company may be another offense under the Companies Act, I'm not sure though). Anyway, damages so far 1,005.37.

I still have another week in which to decide if I want to take out an injunction on them but to be honest I have proper work to do and I can't afford the time to research it. I do now realise why the information commissioner has never taken anyone court for breaking the regulations though. The judge raised a good question - "Do you think they will actually pay?". I have no idea, I'd rather hope that with a court order against them they would have to. My case is against both an individual and a company. They don't declare their company number on their website (they really should, but hey, no one's perfect), "Chris" who I spoke to didn't know the company number and then claimed he worked as an agent, not for the company. As he sent the spam, I put him down personally on the claim as well as the limited company. Mid February is the hearing date - I'll keep you posted!