Welcome to Consumer Reports Advocacy

For 85 years CR has worked for laws and policies that put consumers first. Learn more about CR’s work with policymakers, companies, and consumers to help build a fair and just marketplace at TrustCR.org

Anti-spam plan encouraging but enforcement still needed

FTC’s Anti-Spam Plan Encouraging, but Federal Enforcement Also Needed to Reduce Problem
Group Supports Giving Consumers Right to Say Which Email Messages They Want

Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Jennifer Shecter, 914-378-2402
Susan Herold, 202-462-6262
(Washington, D.C.) – The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) plan to push for an email authentication system to help eliminate spam is encouraging, but Consumers Union also supports a long-term policy solution that includes a combination of technological and legal action to fight unwanted email.
“Consumers Union agrees that an email authentication system is a critical step in the eradication of spam. This directly targets illegal, unscrupulous and often anonymous spammers that operate offshore and under the radar of authorities,” said Jim Guest, president of Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine.
“But in order to fully combat the problem, the FTC also needs to devote sufficient resources to tracking down and prosecuting violators of the law,” Guest added.
The FTC said Tuesday that at the present time it does not support a “Do Not Email” registry similar to the popular “Do Not Call” registry that prohibits telemarketers from calling people on the list. The FTC said an email registry likely would result in more spam, because many spammers would merely use the valid email addresses to send more junk mail since they operate overseas and ignore federal law. Rather, the FTC is supporting an authentication system that will prevent the origin of email messages from being falsified, a method commonly used by spammers.
In testimony last year, Consumers Union cited similar concerns about a “Do Not Email” registry. In addition, the organization recommended the federal anti-spam law allow consumers to “opt-in”– meaning they must give their permission to be emailed. However, the law Congress passed last year only allows consumers to “opt-out”– meaning a consumer must respond to each unwanted email and ask not to be sent the messages.
“Even with the FTC’s positive move today, the federal CAN-SPAM Act still falls short of completely protecting consumers from unwanted email. Consumers need a meaningful way to say no to advertising on their computers, and the burden should be on email marketers to get permission, not on consumers to filter mountains of junk,” Guest said.
To read Guest’s testimony on the CAN SPAM Act to the Senate Commerce Committe click here