The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has submitted comments and warnings to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding the potential 'Do not e-mail' registry, which the FTC will study as a result of the so-called 'CAN SPAM' Act of 2003.
The DMA believes that a 'no e-mail' registry will do absolutely nothing to reduce spam in consumers' inboxes while impeding the growth of legitimate e-commerce. Spammers already violate multiple federal and state-level anti-spam and fraud statutes, and the DMA's comments to the FTC say that it would be naive to think that spammers would start obeying any such new list.
"Only one thing is for certain," said H. Robert Wientzen, president & CEO for the DMA. "If the FTC is forced to create a 'Do not e-mail' list, it will not be a 'Do not spam' list."
Many of The DMA's comments are based on data from its recently published white paper, entitled 'Preserving the Promise of the E-mail Marketplace: An Economic Assessment of the Proposed Federal Do-Not-E-mail Registry'.
Can't stop spam?
The DMA's comments to the FTC note that, while the DMA did support the 'CAN SPAM' Act, it strongly opposes the creation of a do-not-e-mail registry.
"The DMA believes that a do-not-e-mail registry will not reduce spam, while instead limiting the use of e-mail for legitimate marketing purposes." Moreover, it could create significant privacy and security risks for consumers, not to mention creating unrealistic consumer expectations of the effectiveness of the registry.
The DMA's comments explained that "spammers will not comply with a do-not-e-mail registry... ISPs have indicated that, in their [own] spam fighting efforts, spam that reaches their customers' inboxes, [thus evading] ISP spam filters and spam-fighting techniques, in most cases is in violation of the CAN SPAM Act and other laws."
Low consumer support
Moreover, according to a nationwide poll of more than 1,000 American adults commissioned by The DMA (the subject of the white paper mentioned above), the majority of respondents said they would not support the creation of a registry that is ineffective against pornographic and/or fraudulent spam.
Damaging the economy
Referring to the white paper, the DMA's comments also explained that a significant portion of the US$33 billion in sales from November 2002 to November 2003 that resulted from e-mail could be eliminated by the creation of such a registry.
An individual may place their e-mail address on the registry thinking it would reduce spam, and not realise that they would no longer receive any of the genuinely useful offers, discounts, and benefits that they already take advantage of. This would very probably result in a reduction of billions of dollars in annual sales, according to the DMA.
The DMA's economic assessment suggests that such a registry would increase costs for US marketers by some US$5.7 billion, and that some US$12.6 billion would also be lost from the overall US economy. Approximately US$6.9 billion in savings currently enjoyed by consumers would also disappear.
The DMA also commented on the specific types of registries currently under consideration by the FTC. These potential approaches are: a database of registered e-mail addresses, a domain-wide registry, and an e-mail forwarding system. "Any of the versions of the e-mail registry that the FTC is considering would be ineffective in combating spam."
Meanwhile, each of these approaches would create new sets of challenges and risks. For example, The DMA pointed out that, under the database approach, the list would become an irresistible target for hackers, and that "spammers would attempt to obtain the list and use it as a source of e-mail addresses to which to send spam." The DMA added that "the list would forever grow in size as there would be no reliable means of determining whether an e-mail account is no longer operable. On average the annual rate for e-mail address turnover is 32%."
More cooperation needed
"A do-not-e-mail list will not address the source of the problem and will impose significant and unnecessary costs on legitimate senders of commercial e-mail," said Wientzen. "The DMA remains committed to constructively working with all government and private entities to craft and effect appropriate remedies to the spam crisis."
The DMA's comments and white paper have been published on the DMA's web site - click here.