Washington AG sues Florida company over texting spam

Messages advertising payday loans may violate three laws

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SEATTLE — Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna's office has sued a Florida-based company accused of sending people unsolicited text messages, calling it another form of spam that annoys people and costs them money.

It's one of the first lawsuits by a state attorney general targeting spamming via text messages, said assistant Attorney General Paula Selis, who heads McKenna's High Tech Unit.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in a U.S. District Court in Seattle.

McKenna's office is targeting Orlando-based Dinav Holding and its owners, Jonathan Charles Diaz and Juan Carlos Diaz. The lawsuit alleges the company, over a period of two days in May, targeted Washington residents with texts advertising payday loans from companies not licensed in the state.

A phone number listed for Dinav Holding rang busy.

McKenna alleges that Dinav Holding violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act and two state consumer protection laws — the Washington State Commercial Electronic Mail Act and the Washington State Consumer Protection Act.

Washington's law bans commercial text messaging. The federal law prohibits making calls using an automated dialing system, officials said.

Dinav Holding could face steep penalties. Violation of the federal act and one of the state laws comes with damages of $500 per violation if the company is found at fault, officials said.

"Consumers pay for text messaging in order to stay in touch with family, friends and business contacts — not to receive spam that's as illegal as it is annoying," McKenna said in a statement. "Today's lawsuit is a reminder to spammers that there are consequences for breaking the law."

Selis said many people have pay-per-text plans or a limited number of texts to use, which can make unsolicited text messaging costly for subscribers who go over their limits.

"Spammers, known for invading computers, now recognize that most of us now carry powerful computers — mobile phones — and they are determined to invade those as well," Selis said.