House Moves to Ban Spam

A legislative initiative to stem the flow of spam resoundingly passed the
U.S. House of Representatives late
Tuesday.

The Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail Act of 2000 was approved by a
427-1 vote.

The nation’s lawmakers are attempting to take a bite out of spam. If signed
into law, H.R. 3113 would allow Internet service providers and consumers to
sue spammers for up to $150,000.

The potential law requires that ISPs post a spam policy, which operates as
a guideline for commercial e-mailers. It also requires the use of accurate
headers in an e-mail message.

In line with the “opt-out” standard of legitimate e-mail marketing,
individuals must be provided with an option for unsubscribing from future
mailings.

Rep. Heather Wilson, co-sponsor of the bill, said the legislation would
help ISPs and consumers save time and money.

“Millions of unsolicited commercial e-mails, which contain advertisements
for legitimate products as well as pornography, dubious products, or
get-rich-quick schemes, clog up individuals’ computer systems and the
entire information superhighway,” Wilson said.

“The problem with spam is that the receiver pays for e-mail advertisements.
Junk e-mail is like ‘postage due’ marketing or telemarketers calling
collect,” Wilson added. “Spam costs consumers and ISPs money and time.”

Industry groups like CAUCE and ORBS support the bill designed to protect
consumers and ISPs alike from the flood of spam.

CAUCE representatives said HR 3113 represents a carefully crafted approach
that balances the needs of ISPs, consumers, and marketers.

    The bill provisions include:

  • ISPs may establish spam policies, including zero-tolerance for
    unsolicited e-mail, so long as it’s properly published senders must obey
    the operating guidelines
  • ISPs and recipients of e-mail sent in violation can sue for $500 per
    spam up to $150,000, much like recipients of junk faxes
  • The FTC can cite and fine violators.
  • Commercial e-mail must have a working return address that stops an
    e-mail post to individuals
  • Forged headers on commercial e-mail are illegal
  • Senders of commercial e-mail must stop when you tell them to

The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate where it has to be reconciled with
S.2542 and other anti-spam bills introduced earlier this session. CAUCE
representatives said none of the Senate bills has all of the desirable
features of HR 3113, so there remains plenty of work to do in order to
reconcile the legislative initiatives.

Ian Oxman, ChooseYourMail.com
president and Spam
Recycling Center
co-founder, said both firms would continue to advocate
the bill in the Senate.

“With the proliferation of spam, millions of e-mail users are being forced
to pay the cost of delivery for porno ads, web scams and computer viruses,”
Oxman said. “That is why we have aggressively advocated responsible federal
anti-spam legislation.

“I am pleased to hear that the House has passed HR 3113, the Unsolicited
Commercial Electronic Mail Act of 2000,” Oxman added. “But today is just
one battle in the war against spam. We must now turn our attention to the
Senate and push for quick action.”

Oxman said that if the bill works, it could help spur legitimate e-commerce
initiatives on the Internet.

“As an e-mail marketer I know that spam is bad for business, bad for
consumers and bad for the growth of e-commerce. It is clogging the e-mail
channel, damaging the ability of legitimate companies to communicate with
their customers,” Oxman said. “If passed into law, H.R. 3113 will help turn
the tide against spam and help support the g

rowth of e-commerce.”

The Senate will be pressed for time to take action on anti-spam legislation
before the 106th Congress draws to a close for fall elections. If the House
bill does not get quickly scheduled in the Senate, e-mail users may have to
wait until January to empty spam-filled mailboxes.

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