FTC to Congress: ‘ADV’ Label Won’t Work

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says legitimate marketers, and not unscrupulous players, will be harmed if the government requires unsolicited email to carry an ADV: label in the subject line.

The agency recommended against the adoption of such a requirement in a report to Congress last week, partly because it believes only legitimate marketers would comply — and therefore be blocked. The agency also said it doesn’t believe such a measure would work.

“Experience with subject line labeling in the states and in other countries does not support the notion that such measures are an effective means of reducing spam through more efficient sorting or filtering,” the commission said in its report.

The report fulfilled a requirement of the CAN-SPAM Act which required the FTC to study whether requiring ADV:, or some other designation, in the subject line would help stop spam.

The study concluded that spam filters currently available at ISPs function more precisely than mandatory subject line labeling. Commissioners also suggested that the government encourage the industry to pursue other alternatives, such as email authentication.

E-mail authentication has won widespread support from vendors who send mail on behalf of marketers. The E-Mail Service Providers Coalition (ESPC) recently made authentication mandatory for its members.

The report was submitted by a 4-1 majority of commissioners with Commissioner Jon Leibowitz dissenting. Liebowitz contended that a labeling requirement would be helpful as part of a multi-pronged anti-spam strategy and shouldn’t be ruled out.

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