Magazine article American Banker

Message to FTC: Hit Spammers, Not Banks

Magazine article American Banker

Message to FTC: Hit Spammers, Not Banks

Article excerpt

The business community and consumers cheered when Congress enacted the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 late that year. There were high hopes that at last something was being done to eliminate the scourge of unsolicited e-mail.

Congress directed the Federal Trade Commission to issue rules clamping down on spam. The first set of rules defining key terms of the act is scheduled to take effect in March.

But guess what? The rules are confusing and impose requirements on legitimate transactions that go well beyond anything Congress intended. By unduly burdening honest business, the FTC's rules may frustrate consumers and interfere with the orderly growth of electronic commerce.

In passing Can-Spam, Congress acknowledged the importance of electronic mail for personal and commercial use. Congress was concerned that the rapid growth of fraudulent and unwanted e-mail would jeopardize the expansion of legitimate electronic commerce.

To deter spam, the act imposes fines and imprisonment on e-mailers who mislead recipients about the identity of the sender, falsify subject lines, or commandeer another person's computer to blast out unsolicited e-mails.

Though the act is aimed primarily at "king spammers," it also imposes obligations on legitimate businesses that send "commercial" e-mail to customers and prospects. Under the act, that means e-mail whose primary purpose is to advertise or promote a product or service.

Companies that send unsolicited commercial e-mail must give recipients a chance to opt out from additional e-mail from them.

However, if the primary purpose is to complete a transaction between the company and its customer, not to promote a product, the sender need not offer an opt-out.

Pretty straightforward, isn't it? …

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