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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 1-800-Flowers.com, 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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