FTC Proposes 'Primary-Purpose' E-Mail Definitions

The Federal Trade Commission proposed criteria yesterday for defining what qualifies as commercial e-mail under the CAN-SPAM Act.

The act has numerous regulations for e-mail whose "primary purpose" is commercial activity. The FTC is required to devise rules to define criteria for determining this.

In a Federal Register notice to be published tomorrow, the FTC proposes three tests for determining what e-mail has a commercial primary purpose. First, messages that contain only content that advertises or promotes a product or service. Second, transactional messages would qualify if the subject line would lead a recipient to reasonably think it was an ad message, or the transactional content does not appear at or near the top of the message. Third, the FTC proposed that e-mails with commercial and non-transactional content would qualify if a recipient would reasonably conclude advertising is the purpose of the message.

The FTC originally requested comment March 11 on the primary-purpose rule. It subsequently extended the deadline for accepting comments after requests from five trade associations, including the Direct Marketing Association.

The FTC will accept comments on the proposed primary-purpose definitions online at http://secure.commentworks.com/ftc-canspam. Comments are accepted until Sept. 13.

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