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How Much Will Your Unwanted E-mails Cost You?

Are you sending e-mails to customers or potential customers without their consent?

Do you know how much these e-mails might cost you in a lawsuit?

For LinkedIn, those unwanted e-mails cost $13 million.
 
The social networking company announced recently that it was settling a class action lawsuit filed against the company for unwanted e-mails.  The lawsuit stems from the company’s “Add Connections” feature.  Under this feature, LinkedIn notified the individuals in a user’s contact list that a user had joined the social networking site.  The company invited those individuals to join, as well.  If those contacts did not accept the invitation to join within a certain period of time, LinkedIn sent up to two “reminder e-mails,” reminding the contacts that the invitation to join was pending. 
 
A class of users sued LinkedIn, alleging that they had given consent to importing their contacts and to allowing LinkedIn to send an invitation to join the site, but that they had not consented to the two reminder e-mails.  In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed, among other things, that LinkedIn violated California’s common law right of publicity, California’s Unfair Competition Law, the federal Stored Communications Act, and the federal Wiretap Act.  The Court agreed with the users that there was consent for the importation of contacts and the invitation e-mail, but no consent for the reminder e-mails.
 
Instead of fighting the lawsuit to a verdict, LinkedIn decided to settle.  It will pay $13 million into a fund that will be distributed amongst the plaintiffs and any person who submits a claim to join the class.  LinkedIn users, who were affected by the company’s actions, may receive up to $1,500.00.
 
This lawsuit and settlement serves as a good reminder for businesses that when handling e-mail lists:
    Do not use individuals' contact information without their consent; and,
•    Always give individuals the option to opt out of your distribution list.
 
If you have questions about your legal obligations when sending commercial e-mails, contact a member of MacDonald Illig’s Emerging Technologies Practice Group.
 
Also, if you know of someone who may be interested in receiving these weekly updates, have that person e-mail vmadden@mijb.com to be added to the distribution list.