FTC Seeks Further Comments to Amend Can-Spam Act Rules

Gretchen Gallen
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Federal Trade Commission continues to waffle back and forth on certain definitions pertaining to the enforcement of the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003, also known as the Can-Spam Act.

After going into effect on Jan. 1, 2004, Congress tapped the FTC to determine the proper labeling for email containing adult material as well as all details related to the implementation of Can-Spam.

The commission's most recent public comment period, also known as the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, follows an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Can-Spam topics published by the FTC in March 2004.

The NPRM is currently seeking public comment on five topics related to Can-Spam, starting with the definition of a "person," a term used repeatedly throughout the Act but not defined. The FTC also is addressing modifying the definition of "sender" to make it easier to determine which of multiple parties advertising in a single email message will be responsible for complying with the Act's "opt-out" requirements.

Additionally, the FTC is seeking comment on clarifying that post office boxes and private mailboxes established pursuant to United States Postal Service regulations constitute "valid physical postal addresses" within the meaning of the Act. And lastly, the commission is considering shortening from ten days to three days the time a sender may take before honoring a recipient's opt-out request and clarifying that, to submit a valid opt-out request, a recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her email address and opt-out preferences, or take any steps other than sending a reply email message or visiting a single web page.

The current proposals are based on 13,517 comments and suggestions received in response to the ANPR. The FTC said that comments and suggestions came from representatives of a broad spectrum of the online commerce industry, trade associations, individual consumers, and consumer and privacy advocates.

The commentary period is open until June 27 and responses should be submitted to Secretary, FTC, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.

In recent legal action taken against spammers using the Can-Spam shield, Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly obtained an emergency court order this week to shut down dozens of websites allegedly operated by a sophisticated ring of Boston-area spammers. The ring is said to be one of the world's largest spam "gangs."

The group allegedly generated millions of unsolicited and deceptive email messages soliciting unapproved counterfeit drugs, pirated software and porn. The spam ring reportedly has ties to other organizations in Russia, with computer servers located in China, Korea, Brazil and Taiwan.