RETAIL & E-COMMERCE: E-marketing legalities

While there are currently no federal laws prohibiting junk e-mail, the U.S. House of Representatives, did pass the Unsolicited Electronic Mail Act on July 10, 2000, according to Michael Conlon, an attorney with Running, Wise, Ford and Phillips in Traverse City. The bill is now pending in the Senate.

“If enacted, the legislation would hold e-mail marketers responsible for spam,” Conlon explained. “Under the bill, spammers would be required to include a return e-mail address and to stop spamming users on request by allowing individuals to opt out of future messages.”

In addition, the bill prohibits falsifying e-mail routing information. Conlon added that individuals would be able to sue spammers for damages and make complaints to the Federal Trade Commission.

“The FTC would also be authorized to take enforcement actions against spammers,” he noted. “Michigan has similar legislation pending which would authorize the Attorney General to take enforcement actions against spammers. Other states do have legislation prohibiting junk e-mail tactics.”

The result of such legislation will make e-marketing a different ballgame in the future. To avoid being struck-out, Conlon advises the following:

a. E-mails should only be sent to recipients who have agreed to receive such messages by an opt-in procedure.

b. Disclose the sender’s name, a valid return e-mail address or toll-free number, and the date and time the message was sent.

c. Include a notice indicating that if the recipient does not wish to receive similar communications from the sender in the future, the recipient can follow a no-cost opt-out procedure to be removed from the sender’s e-mail mailing list.

d. Use lines that clearly indicate the nature of the commercial e-mail message (e.g., “A special offer from Company ABC.”)

Until the legislation has passed, customers cannot legally retaliate for receiving junk e-mail, although victims of a fraud or scam perpetrated through e-mail can be redressed through traditional laws, Conlon said. BN