Schumer Presses Ahead On Do-Not-E-Mail List

Despite opposition from the Direct Marketing Association, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, said last week that he will seek to amend legislation pending in the Senate to include a do-not-e-mail registry.

Schumer’s Stop Pornography and Abusive Marketing, or SPAM Act, has yet to get a hearing. But the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003, co-sponsored by Sens. Conrad Burns, R-MT, and Ron Wyden, D-OR, may reach the full Senate for a vote before the August recess.

The Burns-Wyden bill would ban false headers and subject lines. It also would require commercial e-mail to include working opt-out mechanisms and for marketers to honor opt-out requests. And it would require all unsolicited e-mail to be clearly labeled as advertising and include the sender’s physical address.

The Burns-Wyden bill also calls for the Federal Trade Commission either to submit a plan for a do-not-e-mail registry or give reasons why one should not be created.

The DMA has voiced support for the Burns-Wyden bill, even with the provision requiring the FTC to study the feasibility of a do-not-e-mail list. As for Schumer’s plan, however, the DMA called on its members last week to sign a joint letter to be sent to the senator voicing opposition.

Eighteen top executives from firms with offices in New York signed the letter, including Christopher McCann of, Kevin O’Connor of DoubleClick, Larry Kimmel of Grey Direct, Richard Hochhauser of Harte-Hanks, Daniel Morel of Wunderman and Thomas Ryder of The Reader’s Digest Association.

The DMA maintains that a do-not-e-mail list is impractical, but Schumer said public support for one is too strong to ignore.

“The support for a federal no-spam list is strong enough that I don’t think the public is going to be sympathetic to claims that it is hard to do,” he said.

To bolster his argument, Schumer jointly unveiled a study with privacy consultants ePrivacy Group that found 74 percent of consumers support a federal do-not-spam list. Also, 79 percent of consumers surveyed in the study said they want spam banned or limited by law. That number is identical to the percentage of respondents in a Harris Interactive poll who favored outlawing spam.

However, 70 percent of those in the Schumer survey said it is acceptable for companies to send them e-mail if they have an offline relationship. This finding bolsters the arguments of proponents of e-mail appending and other direct marketers who maintain that it’s perfectly acceptable to e-mail a customer who may not have given explicit permission for online contact.

In other findings, 31 percent consider all unsolicited e-mail that contains any type of advertisement to be spam.

Just 4 percent said they consider e-mail from companies with which they do business to be spam. And four out of five said it is acceptable for companies with which they do business to send e-mail about their accounts, shipping notifications, receipts or other fulfillment-related information.

Also, 37 percent of those surveyed said they used opt-out mechanisms in commercial e-mail. Main reasons cited for not using opt-out mechanisms were fear that the process would confirm their e-mail address to spammers, uncertainty over whether it would work and doubt that their request would be honored. However, 47 percent said they would feel more confident about opt-out if it were verified by a trusted third party, according to ePrivacy Group.

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