FTC denies consumer petition to ‘Ban the Spam’

Contact: Linda Sherry or Ken McEldowney, 415.777.9648

Consumer Action, TRAC and NCL are disappointed at Fair Trade Commission's response, but look forward to future work with policymakers

Feb. 3, 2003 - The Federal Trade Commission today denied the joint petition filed by Consumer Action, the Telecommunications Research & Action Center (TRAC) and National Consumers League (NCL) to curb the epidemic of unsolicited commercial e-mail. Citing limited time and resources, the Commission has decided to maintain their current enforcement efforts and work with the public to explore solutions to the deluge of unsolicited e-mail come-ons known as "spam."

In their joint petition filed in September 2002 the organizations called on the FTC to initiate a rule making to classify unsolicited commercial e-mail as an "unfair and deceptive" trade practice under the Federal Trade Act. Additionally, the proposed rule would prohibit e-mail that misrepresents the source, sender, subject, or does not give consumers a reliable opt-out. While conceding that the proliferation of unsolicited commercial e-mail is an important consumer concern, the Commission concluded that the benefits of the groups' joint petition are outweighed by the significant time and resource a rule making would require.

"We are concerned that consumers are drowning in fraudulent and unwanted e-mail and that the Commission does not share our sense of urgency," said Ken McEldowney of Consumer Action. "Something needs to be done and done fast! Hopefully Congress can step in, where appropriate, and provide consumers with laws that offer greater protection than what is currently available. We look forward to participating in future debate."

"TRAC is disappointed that the FTC rejected our petition, and feels it was within their jurisdiction to take action. We will be glad to work with the Commission in the future, and would be pleased if they would take more aggressive enforcement action based on the criteria in our petition," said Dirck A. Hargraves of TRAC.

Carol McKay of the National Consumers League, remained optimistic that the groups and the FTC could collaborate to stem the tide of spam, but noted, "Spam knows no geographical boundaries. Because American consumers are flooded with junk mail that originates from places all around the globe, the Commission should ensure that any effort to curtail spam's pervasiveness be international in scope."

Since September, more than 4150 consumers submitted spam "horror stories" to a joint effort by the petitioners, the Ban the Spam site. We thank those who have contributed, and continue to invite others to share their stories as we will forward the permissible information on to staff at the FTC.

Additional contacts:

Kate Dean, TRAC, 202.263.2950
Carol McKay, National Consumers League, 202.835.3323 x114
Mitchell Katz, FTC Office of Public Affairs, 202.326.2180

 

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