Wireless Compliance an Evolving Field

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PALM BEACH, FL -- With wireless marketing evolving so rapidly, compliance issues are coming at a pace faster than either marketers or regulators can match, attorney Helen Mac Murray said Friday.

"Spim" -- marketing messages sent over Internet instant messaging services -- and commercial wireless text messages already are causing consternation among consumers, she said. Regulators are responding, and marketers must take care when using these channels.

Mac Murray spoke at the annual Direct Marketing Association Teleservices Conference here at The Breakers hotel. She is an attorney with the law firm Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter and a former chief of the consumer protection section of the Ohio attorney general's office.

Spim is a wireless problem because it can be sent to "smart phones," or PDA/cell phone hybrids. Because federal law bans unsolicited calls to cell phones or any commercial call for which the recipient is made to pay, spim and text messages to wireless devices are an issue.

An estimated 2 billion spim messages were sent in 2003, and experts predict that number will bloom to 4 billion this year, Mac Murray said. That's well behind e-mail spam, of which 2 billion are sent daily.

Still, given e-mail's rapid movement to the mainstream, wireless messaging might catch on just as quickly. A host of compliance problems, such as whether a telemarketer may be held liable when a consumer blames an auto accident on a wireless marketing message received while driving, remains unexplored.

"Sometimes the technology is so far ahead of the law, we don't have all the answers we need," Mac Murray said.

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