November 14, 2003, 12:00 AM

Three ad trade groups press for passage of federal anti-spam laws

American Association of Advertising Agencies, Association of National Advertisers and Direct Marketing Association are calling on Congress to implement national regulation of e-mail spam, seeking to forestall a hodge-podge of state regulations.


Three major advertising trade associations are calling on Congress to implement national regulation of e-mail spam. The groups are seeking to forestall a hodge-podge of state regulations. State regulation would create such complexity as to kill legitimate e-mail marketing, they say.

The three groups are The American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers and the Direct Marketing Association.

In a letter published in the newspaper Roll Call, which serves Congress, the associations said: “Spam is a serious and complicated problem. It requires a national solution to protect the national marketplace. We, the representatives of small, medium and large businesses across the United States - trusted household names, today urge you to pass the CAN-SPAM Act (S. 877) or the Reduction in Distribution of Spam Act (H.R. 2214) NOW. Immediate action is required to go after the bad guys on spam and avert a crisis that will bring legitimate electronic commerce to a screeching halt.”

They report that there already are 37 state spam laws, all inconsistent with one another, and characterize the laws as “a knee-jerk reaction to the spam crisis.” They also report that the U.S. Census Bureau has determined that 12% of $138 billion in Internet commerce is driven by legitimate commercial e-mail, which translates into $17.5 billion spent in response to commercial e-mails in 2003 for goods and services such as travel, hotels, entertainment, books, and clothing.

The associations contend that the consequences of failing to pass a national law controlling spam would include the end of e-mail marketing as companies will find it impossible to comply with state laws and major legal bills as even minor violations of state laws will prompt lawsuits.

“Large and small businesses will be socked with major legal bills as frivolous and wasteful lawsuits continue to soar: In Utah, for example, fully one-third of all suits filed using that state`s anti-spam statutes have been dismissed because the defendants were not the parties responsible for sending spam,” the association’s letter says.

“We urge you to pass legislation that will clearly distinguish acceptable commercial e-mail from unlawful spam, and impose stiff criminal penalties on those who fall on the wrong side of the law,” the letter says. “This will crack down with enhanced national enforcement authority on the criminals who threaten to wholly undermine the utility of the Internet for consumers and businesses alike, while protecting legitimate e-commerce and its associated jobs.”


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