CAN-SPAM Comments Flood FTC

More than 12,000 comments from the public on the CAN-SPAM Act flooded the Federal Trade Commission in response to its March call for feedback, with companies like Visa, MasterCard, AT&T, Reed Elsevier, Experian Marketing Solutions, Verizon and Wells Fargo & Co. weighing in.

The comments were solicited March 11 to help the FTC write its recommendations to Congress on how numerous aspects of CAN-SPAM should be shaped. The comment period closed April 20, an extension of the original April 12 deadline.

FTC Attorney Michael Goodman, who is handling the comment process, said it would be “premature” to comment about whether any trends were emerging among the responses, such as comments in favor of or against the controversial proposed Do-Not-E-Mail list.

The agency received a total of 12,525 comments, with 6,300 of them coming as form letters from individual members of the National Association of Realtors. The realtors’ letters, which are mostly directed in opposition of a Do-Not-E-Mail registry, are represented on the site by a few representative letters. The remaining 6,225 letters are posted in full on the FTC site.

“I’m glad we received the volume we did. More is better on this front,” said Goodman.

A quick reading of the posted responses gives an indication of the individuals, organizations and businesses that found the issue important enough to respond.

The National Association of Realtors, which took a strong interest in the matter, took aim at the idea of a Do-Not-E-Mail registry. A letter from Realtor Dwight Hathaway said such a registry “goes too far and will result in penalizing small businesses for engaging in legitimate email communications with past clients and consumers living in the neighborhoods they serve.”

Visa USA also weighed in with comments. Among other things, Visa said “the FTC’s efforts in implementing CAN-SPAM should focus on the emails sent by entities that have no previous relationship with the recipient,” instead of legitimate businesses such as Visa, which “often send[s] email to current and past customers and those they believe have interest in a particular product or service.”

AT&T weighed in as well, arguing that the 10-day period currently allowed by CAN-SPAM for processing opt-out requests should be expanded to 30 days.

Other well-known entities that responded include the National Automobile Dealers Association, the Newsletter & Electronic Publishers Association, the Newspaper Association of America, the Small Business Administration, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Not surprisingly, the Direct Marketing Association and Online Publishers Association, TRUSTe and the E-Mail Service Provider Coalition commented. Conspicuously absent was the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which chose not to comment, citing a lack of resources.

CAN-SPAM didn’t quite reach the level of public comment enjoyed by the federal Do-Not-Call list. The FTC said it considered more than 64,000 public comments on that issue, with 300 to 400 of those coming from industry groups.

CAN-SPAM became effective January first, making it a misdemeanor to intentionally send bulk unsolicited commercial email (UCE) with falsified headers. It sets civil penalties for other common spamming practices.

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