FTC Seeks CAN-SPAM Feedback

Marketers, email service providers, advertisers, vendors, consumers, spammers and everyone in between can make suggestions on how to better the federal CAN-SPAM act. The Federal Trade Commission called for public comments on Thursday. Commentary will be accepted until April 12.

“We need to hear from marketers on this,” Michael Goodman told ClickZ. Goodman is the FTC staff attorney spearheading the initiative. He previously worked on telemarketing legislation and the national Do-Not-Call registry and recalls that when public comments were solicited, very few marketers responded. The telemarketing industry has been decimated by Do-Not-Call.

The CAN-SPAM Act, which became effective January first, makes it a misdemeanor to intentionally send bulk unsolicited commercial email (UCE) with falsified headers. It sets civil penalties for other common spamming practices. The law requires the FTC to file four reports with Congress over the next two years regarding aspects of CAN-SPAM. These include recommendations regarding the feasibility of a national do-not-spam list similar to the FTC’s popular do-not-call registry; a system for rewarding people who assist in arresting and convicting spammers; subject line identification and an overall report on the act’s effectiveness.

The first lawsuit under CAN-SPAM was filed Mar. 5. On Wednesday, four major U.S. ISPs filed six lawsuits under the act.

The act, hailed as a victory by groups including the Direct Marketing Association, has also been criticized as being too weak, too Draconian, incomplete and ill-defined. The Federal Register Notice seeking comment is designed to help fine-tune the act. Goodman said the FTC seeks feedback explaining why or why not given components of CAN-SPAM works, but stressed comments must offer proposals for solutions. Proposed solutions must take into account effects on the entire chain of email sending and receiving: marketers, advertisers, ISPs, recipients and any other parties. “It’s not just about why something’s bad for your business,” he warned.

The agency wants answers to several specific questions detailed in the response form, including whether or not a national Do-Not-Spam list is a good idea. Others include how to determine whether an email’s primary purpose is commercial; if 10 days is an appropriate period to process an opt-out request; if “forward to a friend” campaigns fall under CAN-SPAM and if it would be useful to further clarify what constitutes a “valid physical postal address,” which the act requires be added to commercial mailings.

Responses can be submitted at www.regulations.gov by choosing Federal Trade Commission from the drop-down menu, scrolling down to “Definitions, Implementation, and Reporting Requirements Under the CAN-SPAM Act,” and clicking on “Submit a Comment on this Regulation.”

Comments can also be mailed to: Federal Trade Commission, CAN-SPAM Act, Post Office Box 1030, Merrifield, VA 22116-1030. While democratic, the process is not confidential. Comments become part of the official record.

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