Edinburgh Sheriff finds spammer liable for over £1300.

In what is believed to be the highest damages award an individual has received in the UK and thought to be the first case in Scotland, an Edinburgh man has successfully claimed damages from a sender of unsolicited commercial email.

Gordon Dick was granted decree in Edinburgh Sheriff Court against Transcom Internet Services Ltd (Transcom) of Henley-on-Thames. The judgement, in January, awarded Mr Dick damages and, unusually for a small claim, lifted the normal £75 cap on expenses the defender was ordered to pay.

For receiving spam email from Transcom, the court awarded Mr Dick :

Damages:£750 plus 8% interest per annum from 10th May 2006 until paid
Total:£1368.66 (plus interest)
If all 72,000 recipients of this particular spam were eligible to claim the same damages then the spammers bill could total over £54,000,000!

Anti-Spam Law

The EU e-Privacy directive was incorporated into UK law by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 ("PECR"). The law gives individuals the right to not receive unsolicited commercial email, faxes and text messages.

When he was openly sent spam by a company advertising anti-spam solutions on their web site, Gordon Dick, decided they should not be allowed to get away with breaching the law.

Mr Dick wrote to the group of companies in Henley-on-Thames run by a Mr William Smith of Reading (the sole director of Transcom Internet Services Ltd is also a director of Transcom ISP Ltd, Transcom Satellite Services Ltd, Nowdance Ltd and Design Technology Ltd which trades as Transcom ISP, all of which are based at the same address). He asked them to explain their actions and required them to cease using his personal data. Transcom Internet Services Limited wrote back confirming they were responsible for the email but denying their actions were unlawful and challenging Mr Dick to take legal action.

Mr Dick gave them a final warning that legal action would follow if they did not make good damage done and give undertakings not to breach the regulations again. Transcom reiterated their challenge to take legal action, so Mr Dick followed their request and filed a small claim in Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Transcom instructed solicitors and filed a defence in court. Evidence and case law was submitted to the court which resulted in an offer to settle out of court for £500, Mr Dick rejected the offer and requested £750 plus an apology and undertakings not to breach the law again. The day before proof hearing they agreed to pay £750 but refused to undertake not to breach the regulations again in an out of court settlement. This settlement never completed and Transcom's solicitors withdrew from acting for them. The Sheriff awarded decree and lifted the normal £75 cap on small claim expenses due to Transcom's actions during the case.

Mr Dick commented: "The courts have now sent a clear message, spam will not be tolerated and individuals rights to not have their mailbox filled with unsolicited advertising will be upheld. It has been clear to me throughout my case and in front of each Sheriff that they have little time for spammers and their anti-social actions."

Mr Dick went on to say: "While most spam comes from countries such as the USA and China and therefore is difficult to apply European laws to, UK internet users can at least drive local spammers out of business. I'd now like to see the mass market internet providers and media throughout the UK provide help to the British public with pointers, resources and support in legal claims against UK based spammers and perhaps we can clean up our little part of the internet."

Mr Dick has launched a web site to help others make legal claims at http://www.scotchspam.org.uk/ and is encouraging ISPs, email and SMS providers to get in touch to work together.

For further information, email Gordon on scotchspam.uk@googlemail.com