I sat in on an FTC legislative update webinar presented by The E-mail Experience Council Wednesday afternoon, and thought it might be useful to run down some of the high points for the Real Magnet blog.
Lois Greisman of the FTC started the webinar by asserting that CAN SPAM “leveled the playing field” by providing a road map for legitimate marketers to follow in terms best practices, and a way to distinguish good actors from the bad. I’m not sure I agree with her on that last point; I receive a daily bucket load of unsolicited bulk e-mail that complies with CAN SPAM, and I have trouble discerning the good actors among them.
She noted that the law has been a useful tool for going after certain types of spammers. As an example, she points to the US$2.9-million judgment against ValueClick, who last spring were found to have used brazenly deceptive subject lines in their e-mail (remember the “click here for a free iPod” guys?), among other sins.
Greisman stated flat out that the FTC is uninterested in pursuing broader e-mail specific protections, noting that Congress spoke quite clearly in the passage of the law, and had carefully considered but eventually discarded stiffer requirements. The FTC seems to be signaling that CAN SPAM, with all its flaws, will remain the law of the land as written (and subsequently clarified in the rules update of May 2008), and that we should not expect additional e-mail marketing specific requirements anytime soon.
Legislators are, however, considering an expansion of FTC rule-making authority and enforcement powers that has the Direct Marketing Association a bit nervous. In some cases, it would allow the FTC to impose immediate civil penalties on fraudsters, and give them the opportunity to “go down the food chain” after organizations that aided and abetted the fraud.
For details on these and other topics addressed in the webinar, have a look at my twitter time line for my live narrative of the hour-long session. You’re very welcome to follow me there. You may also follow Real Magnet’s twitter here.
Andrew Barrett is Sr. Director, ISP Relations & Deliverability at Real Magnet.