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Cingular wireless LLC has joined Verizon Wireless’ court campaign against telemarketers and spammers who gobble cellphone subscribers’ minutes with unwanted marketing calls and messages. After collecting a number of injunctions against data brokers, who sell improperly obtained cellphone records, Atlanta-based Cingular Wireless started looking at the entire landscape of activities that affect customers, said Cingular’s lawyer on the cases, David Lewis Balser, a partner in the Atlanta office of McKenna Long & Aldridge. “We’re in the early stages of the process, but Cingular Wireless is committed to stopping the practice [of unauthorized telemarketing],” Balser said. Cingular Wireless filed three federal lawsuits against telemarketers in Atlanta federal court this month and named a plaintiff in a “John Doe” lawsuit filed in August. The complaints claim that the companies violated the federal telephone consumer protection act and that their unauthorized use of Cingular Wireless networks is conversion and unjust enrichment. Cingular Wireless v. American Broadcast Systems Inc., No. 06-2395 (N.D. Ga.); Cingular Wireless v. Go2Prepaid, No. 06-02408, (N.D. Ga.); Cingular Wireless v. Sebell Telecommunications, No. 06-01800 (N.D. Ga.). In July, Cingular Wireless obtained the first injunction against a data broker and has since collected five more so far. Cingular Wireless v. Data Find Solutions Inc., No. 05- 03269 (N.D. Ga.). “We became more vigilant and started focusing on other improper uses of our network and improper communications with, and interference with, our customers,” Balser said. “That’s what led us to the lawsuits against the telemarketers and spammers.” Verizon gets aggressive Verizon Wireless, whose official corporate name is Cellco Partnership, dates its anti-spamming campaign to a 2004 lawsuit and its telemarketing cases back to August 2005, following a jump in customer complaints that summer, said the company’s senior counsel, Leigh Schachter. “We made the decision we were going to be active and get injunctions to protect the customers,” Schachter said. Bedminster, N.J.-based Verizon Wireless has collected several injunctions against telemarketers and spammers using text messaging over the past year, including one against All Star Vacation Marketing Group Inc. of Miami, which made telemarketing calls in Spanish. Cellco Partnership v. All Star Vacation Marketing Group Inc., No. L-225-06 (Somerset Co., N.J., Super. Ct.). On Sept. 29, the company filed a “John Doe” suit in a federal court in New Jersey against unknown individuals or companies that sent 550,000 unwanted text messages to its subscribers starting on Sept. 24. Verizon is seeking the greater of actual damages or $500 for each violation, plus triple damages, economic damages under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, punitive damages, and costs and attorney fees. Cellco Partnership v. John Does 1-50, No. 06-04692 (D.N.J.) All Star’s legal troubles with Verizon Wireless stemmed from its contract with a rogue call center that agreed not to call people on the “National Do Not Call Registry” run by the Federal Trade Commission, said All Star’s lawyer, Jason Oletsky of Miami-based Kluger, Peretz, Kaplan & Berlin. When Verizon Wireless filed the suit, All Star quickly agreed to the injunction and turned over information about the call center, Oletsky said. “It makes it harder for my client because you have rogue companies,” Oletsky said. “Sometimes you find out a little too late that they weren’t telling the truth.” Verizon Wireless traces the upswing in illegal telemarketing at least partially to the proliferation of cellphones. The number of cellphone subscribers reached 219.4 million this June, up from about 97 million in June 2000, according to the Washington industry group CTIA-The Wireless Association. Since federal laws prohibit the use of automated dialing machines, carriers are generally successful when bringing suits against telemarketers, said CTIA’s director of public affairs, Joe Farren. “[Carriers] have been successful,” Farren said. “They have been able to shut down operations in some cases and to prevent certain outfits from continuing their telemarketing campaigns.”

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