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Amazon.com Inc. said Tuesday it has filed federal lawsuits in the United States and Canada against 11 online marketers that the Internet retailer claims are using its name without permission to sell products ranging from health pills to automobile warranties.
Amazon is seeking millions of dollars in punitive damages to deter others from sending E-mails falsely labeled as coming from the company.
Online marketers often disguise E-mails for selling pornography, get-rich-quick schemes and bogus drugs for sexual enhancements. The illegal marketing ploy is called spoofing.
"Spoofers lie about who's really sending these E-mails," David Zapolsky, Amazon.com VP and associate general counsel, said in a statement. "Spoofing is forgery, and we're going after spoofers to the full extent of the law."
Amazon.com also said New York State's Attorney General's office had settled civil fraud charges against an E-mail forger identified by the retailer. Under the agreement, E.B.A. Wholesale Corp. of Brooklyn, N.Y., is prohibited from using any third-party name without authorization.
The appliance retailer, which does business under the name Cyebye.com, is required to keep records of all commercial E-mails during the next two years and provide the Attorney General's office with regular updates of its compliance with the settlement. In addition, the company must pay $10,000 in penalties to the State of New York.
Amazon also reached a settlement with Cyebye, prohibiting the company from sending E-mail messages of any kind that include the Amazon.com name in any way without specific authorization. The agreement also includes payment by Cyebye.com of undisclosed monetary damages.
Among the other companies identified by Amazon.com as defendants in its suits were Rockin Time Holdings Inc., Miami Beach, Fla.; Royal Responder, Fort Collins, Colo.; and Matrix Consulting Group LLC of Wisconsin. Individuals were also listed as defendants in the lawsuits filed in seven U.S. District Courts and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Canada.
Zapolsky said spoofing was a problem for all companies with a trusted brand that used E-mail to communicate with their customers. Spoofing "isn't just spam; it's consumer fraud," Zapolsky said. "And the actions taken today by Amazon.com and by the state of New York will send a strong message to anyone engaged in this conduct that it will not be tolerated."
Amazon.com has set up an E-mail account, firstname.lastname@example.org, for consumers to report suspected spoofing involving the company's name or to turn in E-mail forgers posing as Amazon.com.