Virgin Net has settled out of court with a Surrey businessman accused of spamming thousands of Internet users via its service, but despite being pleased with the outcome ISPs said the result could have been better.
Virgin sued Adrian Paris, trading under the name Prophoto UK, in April for damages relating to breach of contract and trespassing after he sent over a quarter of a million junk emails using a Virgin Net account.
Paris has settled the case by agreeing not to open another account with Virgin Net and not to send spam to Virgin Net customers in the future. He will also pay £5,000 in costs and damages.
The case was being closely watched by the ISP industry who are desperate to rid the Internet of junk email for good. The European Parliament recently failed to back proposals to outlaw spamming.
Virgin said the settlement offer met all the requests of its writ, making it difficult to refuse, but hinted that a court battle may have been more productive.
"While we would have ideally liked the court to have had the opportunity to set a clear precedent for the future, in light of the recent changes to civil procedures in the UK courts, we had no sensible choice but to agree to settle by way of a consent order," said Virgin Net business development director David Johnson.
"The fact remains however, that the case sends a clear and strong message to would be spammers and raises the profile of this issue which will have to be addressed by the courts or the government soon," said Johnson.
EuroISPA, the European ISP Association, said the result was positive because Virgin won, but echoed the concerns that an opportunity to set a precedent to scare off would-be spammers in future had been missed.
"It's possibly unfortunate and nobody's fault that it's not perfect, because they didn't reach a clear precedent," said a EuroISPA spokesman.
EuroISPA said if the UK had strict rules on spam - like Germany has - it would be easier to convince the EU to adopt a strict line. In turn, the EU would find it easier to take a strict line on spam to global bodies, like the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development(OECD).
"It's important that the UK gets regulation right," said the spokesman.
Paris, a Virgin Net customer since July 1998, is accused of generating over 1,500 complaints from Virgin customers and costing the ISP around 40 hours of management time investigating his activities.
The spamming also disrupted Virgin Net's computer systems and saw Virgin Net black listed by the Real time Blackhole List - an ISP run mailing list that blocks out email from spam friendly ISPs.
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