updated 7/20/2004 3:15:12 PM ET 2004-07-20T19:15:12

New York authorities on Monday settled a lawsuit filed against a Colorado-based electronic mail marketer for allegedly sending unsolicited and deceptive "spam" messages on behalf of clients.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said the marketer, Scott Richter, and his company, OptInRealBig.com, paid $40,000 in penalties and $10,000 in investigative costs under the agreement, which was signed before state Supreme Court Justice Eileen Bransten in Manhattan. The company also agreed to provide Spitzer's office with customer information and all advertisements it sends as well as promising to use proper identifying information when registering domain names.

"This settlement holds Richter and his company to a new standard of accountability in their delivery of e-mails," Spitzer said. "If he does not fulfill these standards, he will find himself back in court, facing greater penalties."

When Spitzer filed the civil suit against Richter, OptInRealBig.com and some of the company's clients and other individuals in December 2003, the attorney general said he was seeking $20 million in penalties.

Steve Richter, father and lawyer of Scott Richter, said Monday the settlement basically involved a "no harm, no foul" situation from Richter's standpoint. The fact the attorney general settled for $50,000 while initially talking about $20 million in damages "speaks for itself," Steve Richter said.

Richter said he and his son were also angered by a news release Monday from Spitzer in which Scott Richter was referred to as a "deceptive spammer."

"We vigorously and strongly dispute that claim because there is no finding by anyone that OptInRealBig.com or Scott Richter is a deceptive spammer," Steve Richter said. "That misrepresents the settlement."

OptInRealBig.com said in a statement Monday that as part of the settlement with Spitzer, it agreed to abide by the terms of the 2003 federal Can Spam Act. The Westminster, Colo.-based company said it's been complying with the act all along anyway.

Spitzer spokesman Brad Maione said neither Scott Richter nor OptInRealBig.com admitted any wrongdoing in the settlement.

When announcing his suit, Spitzer said special Hotmail e-mail accounts set up by his investigators found thousands of e-mails in May and June 2003 that carried bogus "from" and "subject" lines, often indicating that the messages were part of ongoing conversations instead of being unsolicited commercial lures.

A lawsuit Microsoft Corp. filed against Richter in Washington state was not affected by New York's settlement.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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