Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a federal lawsuit against an alleged text-message spammer accused of flooding consumers' cell phones with unsolicited text messages.
The lawsuit names C & C Global Enterprises, L.L.C., www.resortsellers.com and two individuals, the operators of www.webuyresorts.com and www.resortsellers.com. They're accused of violating the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the state Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.
The state of Georgia and Cingular Wireless have also sued the company and its owners.
Also in hot water is Blinko, the American subsidiary of Italy's Buongiorno entertainment conglomerate. It was suspended by Verizon for sending text spam and faces a class action lawsuit in Michigan.
Beginning in November 2006, Illinois residents began receiving unsolicited text messages alerting them that, "We have someone interested in buying or renting your Time Share" and directing the recipient to logon to www.webuyresorts.com or www.resortsellers.com for more information.
The websites vanished from the Internet a few days after consumers began complaining about the unsolicited messages.
Madigan's Consumer Protection Division has received 66 written complaints and 190 complaints by phone from consumers complaining that they received unsolicited text messages from the defendants.
Blanketing cell phone customers with unsolicited text messages costs consumers. Depending on a consumer's cell phone plan, the consumer either is charged a fee for each message received or her monthly bucket of text messages, for which she pays a monthly fee, is reduced.
In addition, receiving and viewing text messages uses precious battery power which could leave consumers unable to make necessary calls, including emergency calls.
"The defendants have attempted to illegally shift their advertising costs to consumers by making the consumers pay to receive ads. This conduct is particularly egregious because consumers have no way to avoid these costs that they never agreed to incur and, in this case, many of the consumers who complained to my office said they do not even own a time share to sell," Madigan said.
Madigan's lawsuit also raises allegations concerning other aspects of the defendants' business. Specifically, the suit alleges that the defendants' unsolicited text message tells consumers they have a buyer or renter for their time share, but many of the recipients of the unsolicited text message do not own a time share.
In addition, Madigan alleges that the defendants accept payment for time share listing services and then fail to provide the listing. The defendants could not possibly provide the time share listing because they do not request sufficient information from customers to develop a time share sale listing, such as the address of the time share and the unit number, the complaint alleges.
Madigan's lawsuit seeks a nationwide injunction against the defendants, prohibiting them from violating consumer protection laws.
In addition, the lawsuit seeks civil penalties of $50,000 and additional civil penalties of $50,000 for each violation of the Consumer Fraud Act found to be committed with the intent to defraud. Madigan also requests that the court order the defendants to pay restitution to affected consumers.