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Anti-Spam Law Not Doing the Job; Congress Must Improve Efforts

Can-Spam Law Not Doing the Job, Senate Committee Told
Consumers Union President Tells Congress to Refine Law to Fight Spammers

Thursday, May 20, 2004
Susan Herold, 202-462-6262
(Washington, D.C.) – Since the federal anti-spam law went into effect in January, consumers appear to be receiving as much unwanted e-mail as ever, and Congress should refine the law to make it more effective in blocking spam, the president of Consumers Union testified today before a Senate committee.
Jim Guest, president of the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, told the Senate Commerce Committee that 80 percent of respondents in a national online survey conducted by the magazine reported no reduction in spam during the three months after the law went into effect. About two-thirds also noted that spam comprised at least half of their e-mails.
“In order to truly can-spam, Congress will need to update the law to keep abreast of new developments in technology, such as wireless spam, and keep on the trail of elusive spammers who are finding new ways to beat spam filters and evade anti-spam technologies,” Guest said.
Guest said the magazine recommended to policymakers in August that the law allow consumers to “opt-in” to spam – meaning they must give their permission to be e-mailed. However, the law Congress passed only allows consumers to “opt-out” of spam – meaning a consumer must respond to each unwanted e-mail and ask not to be sent the messages.
“We recommend consumers not click on unsubscribe or ‘opt-out’ links, as this may signal a spammer that the user’s e-mail address works, causing them to get more spam,” Guest said. “Unfortunately, this leaves users in a difficult position with perhaps no real remedy against spam for the time being.
“Our bottom line is Congress should not place the burden on consumers to fight the flood of spam, the burden should be on the marketers,” he said. “If we can stop solicitors from ringing our doorbells, if we can stop solicitors from calling us at home, then there should be the same protection in our view to stop spam.”
To read Guest’s testimony, click here
Complete results of Consumer Reports in-depth spam survey will be published in the September issue of the magazine.