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More Groups Urge Boycott of DMA’s e-MPS

Two more consumer groups – the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail and the Mail Abuse Prevention System – added their support this week to a boycott of the Direct Marketing Association’s e-Mail Preference Service.

The service, launched Jan. 10, was designed by the DMA to allow consumers worldwide to opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial e-mails from DMA members and other marketers who use it. The DMA requires members who market to consumers to cross-reference their e-mail lists with the e-MPS list to remove e-mail addresses of consumers who have registered. ChooseYourMail.com and the Forum for Responsible and Ethical E-mail began the boycott.

“The service [e-MPS] is not a spam solution,” said Ian Oxman, president at ChooseYourMail.com, Chicago, which operates the Spam Recycling Center, a Web site that enables consumers to forward spam to federal authorities and get an anti-spam filter. The center co-sponsors the boycott with the Forum for Responsible and Ethical E-Mail, a nonprofit group of volunteers worldwide that says its mission is to stop the use of unsolicited commercial e-mail.

The groups are urging the boycott because the DMA is trying to confuse consumers and convince Congress that the industry is self-policing, according to Oxman, who said e-MPS will be harmful to the e-mail advertising industry in the long run.

E-mail is an emerging advertising channel, Oxman said, and the only threat to it is that the majority of e-mail advertisers are spammers. “The DMA should be trying to change that.”

Oxman said the DMA has taken a stand that is in opposition to its membership. DMA members aren’t using spam, he said, so it doesn’t make sense for it to protect the use of it. e-MPS should be dropped and the DMA should cooperate with legislators to protect people from spammers, he said.

While FREE concedes it will be difficult for consumers to tell which firms use e-MPS, it predicted that disclaimers will begin appearing in the commercial e-mails of those using it to avoid consumer backlash. FREE, www.spamfree.org, is not doing anything large-scale to promote the boycott. “We’re doing what we can on a shoestring budget,” said FREE spokesman Andrew Barrett.

Meanwhile, the DMA said it doesn’t think the boycott will work. “Members are going to use [e-MPS],” said Stephen Altobelli, director of public affairs at the DMA. Altobelli said he hopes consumers will not boycott e-MPS because it’s offered to help consumers reduce spam. If it’s partially effective, he said, it will reduce the amount of unsolicited commercial e-mail people get, so it’s in consumers’ best interest to use it if they feel spam is a problem.

According to Altobelli, e-MPS is the only program the DMA is planning to use to reduce spam as of now.

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