Consumers Union Says Anti-Spam Bills Weak

The Consumers Union told a House panel reviewing an anti-spam bill Tuesday that none of the current proposals before Congress go far enough since none contain “opt-in” provisions.

All of the introduced anti-spam proposals in the House and the Senate call for “opt-out” procedures that require senders of unsolicited commercial e-mail to provide recipients of the mail with an option to halt future offerings.

“In other words, an ISP (Internet service provider) must first pass on the spam to consumers, consumers must then read the spam, and then they can exercise their right to stop receiving messages from that particular sender,” Chris Murray, the legislative counsel for the consumer group, told the Judiciary Subcommmittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.

Murray also urged the lawmakers to give consumers the right to file class action suits against spammers.

The subcommittee was meeting to review the Rid Spam Act (H.R. 2214). The legislation is sponsored by a powerful coalition of committee chairmen and calls for commercial e-mailers to use header identification stating the message is an advertisement or solicitation and provide consumers with opt-out provisions.

It also mandates that commercial bulk e-mailers must use an accurate return address and include the physical location of the sender.

Similar legislation has already passed a Senate committee.

“We believe H.R. 2214 needs to be improved because it lacks an opt-in provision and private right of action for consumers while at the same time it excludes class action suits,” Murray said. “This puts too much burden on consumers to block spam and makes it too difficult to hold spammers legally accountable.”

Lawmakers, especially Bob Goodlatte (R.-Va.), disagreed.

“Class action is the wrong approach,” Goodlatte said. “It is an abomination that will result in a nominal benefit because of the nominal loss.”

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