In A Nutshell
Like waiting in line at the DMV and airplane food, spam emails have become a cliché of life’s little annoyances. It’s a status that’s been earned, as estimates are that 90 percent of email traffic worldwide is unsolicited junk. That’s around 73 trillion emails a year from a Nigerian prince offering knock-off pharmaceuticals (but only if you hurry). Back in 2002, a marketer named Dan Balsam was receiving a fair few of these when he decided he was sick of it. He quit his job to start law school, with the intention of suing the people creating the nuisance.
The Whole Bushel
By the time he graduated in 2008, he had already started suing dozens of email marketers. He lists over 50 success stories on his website and he has earned over $1 million in settlements and victories. He sees himself as a crusader taking on a problem, but others take a different view. Balsam’s arch nemesis is another lawyer, Bennet Kelley. Kelley claims Balsam is in it solely for the money and is taking advantage of the legal system for profit.
Criticisms of Balsam include the fact he targets out-of-state companies in California courts, who would save more by settling than trying to defend any claim. Balsam has over 100 email addresses, one for every company he ever needs to email. He says this helps him reduce spam, his critics says it’s so he can catch more spam and have more chances to sue. The organizations he targets have sued him right back for revealing confidential information from settlement clauses. Balsam claims these are nothing but revenge.
Among the problems Balsam has brought up are the practices of selling email addresses, as California law requires direct consent for marketing. California also forbids emails that are designed to look like they’re not marketing at all. He sued AdultFriendFinder after he received four emails from a fictional woman named “Rebecca” saying “I love you.” He says adult dating websites are the worst culprit in the industry, as their mails are often intended to deceive, and they fill their databases with fake women to pull in subscription fees.
Putting aside whether or not Balsam is a crusader for consumer rights or just as bad as those he takes to court (he’s been called a “lawsuit spammer” by his critics), spam emails don’t appear to be going away and Balsam intends to continue the fight, telling his opponents, “I’m not going away.”