Study: Consumers Dislike Spam, But Some Buy From It

WASHINGTON — If there is one thing everybody agreed on at the Federal Trade Commission’s spam forum this week, it’s that spam is a problem.

Trouble is, they can’t agree on what spam is.

Fifty-three percent of consumers said they agreed with the statement that spam is “any unwanted e-mail sent by companies from whom you have purchased something before,” according to a study released yesterday at the forum by anti-spam services provider Mailshell, San Francisco.

Thirty-three percent defined spam as “any e-mail you don’t want.” Eighty-eight percent defined it as “any e-mail sent by any company with whom you have no prior relationship.”

“Consumers’ definitions of spam differ dramatically from marketers’, service providers’ and legislators’ definitions of spam,” the study said. “It will be difficult for all constituencies to agree on a solution until the problem is more clearly defined.”

However, 8 percent of the 1,118 respondents to the online survey said they have bought a product promoted to them via spam, a figure that raised more than a few eyebrows at the FTC forum.

One panelist suggested that maybe a portion of that 8 percent purchased from non-spam commercial e-mail, and simply considered it spam.

In other findings, 62 percent of the respondents said that making spam illegal would “really help reduce the problem.”

Forty-eight percent said they thought their ISPs are capable of doing more to reduce spam, but are unwilling to do so. And 79 percent disagreed with the statement, “The press exaggerates the problem of spam.”

In another study released here yesterday, about 57 percent of respondents to a survey commissioned by New York e-mail service provider Bigfoot Interactive said that trying to unsubscribe from unwanted e-mails has resulted in getting more unwanted e-mail.

As a result, about 90 percent said they would prefer it if their ISP or e-mail account provider would include an unsubscribe option that would safely remove them from an e-mail list. The “trusted unsubscribe” idea is reportedly gaining traction in e-mail marketing circles, some spam forum attendees said.

Meanwhile, 79 percent of those in the Bigfoot survey said they wanted their ISPs or e-mail account providers to treat pornographic e-mail differently from other types of e-mail.

And as evidence that spam filters often are applied too diligently, about 38 percent of those in the Bigfoot survey said they did not receive an e-mail from a trusted source, and about 28 percent said e-mail from a trusted source has been delivered to a junk mail folder.

However, just over 39 percent said they are considering installing spam-filtering software.

Also, the vast majority of the 1,023 people surveyed from April 25-27 said their preferred method for getting rid of all types of spam was hitting the “delete” key.

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