Consumer groups want FTC to stop commercial spam

Three consumer groups began a petition to ask the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to stop deceptive and unsolicited commercial...

Three consumer groups began a petition to ask the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to stop deceptive and unsolicited commercial junk e-mail or spam filling the inboxes of Internet users.

The groups charged that the unregulated flow of millions of commercial e-mails sent out daily by marketing companies harms consumers through fraud and frustration.

Samuel Simon, chairman of the non-profit Telecommunications Research and Action Center (TRAC), said the FTC must take action "to halt the outrageous excesses of bulk e-mail senders".

TRAC was joined by the National Consumers League and the non-profit group Consumer Action at the unveiling of banthespam.com. The Web site allows consumers to log their comments and negative experiences about receiving unwanted spam. The comments will be sent to the FTC for their review as part of a massive online petition the consumer groups hope to use to get the FTC to act.

Simon said the groups want the FTC to use its powers under the Federal Trade Act to deal with unregulated e-mail transmissions from marketing companies.

The consumer groups want it to be illegal and deceptive to misrepresent the sender of a commercial e-mail message, as well as to misrepresent the subject of the e-mail in the header or title. The groups also want it illegal for commercial e-mails to be sent without reliable and accurate contact information, as well as illegal to make it difficult for recipients to remove their names from a sender's e-mail lists.

It would also be unlawful under the proposal for a commercial e-mail sender to leave a recipient's name on an e-mail list after a recipient has asked for it to be removed.

"We need your help, and we urge everyone to go to banthespam.com and be heard," Simon said. "This is your chance to do something about it."

Susan Grant, vice-president of public policy for the National Consumers League, said FTC action is needed because of the constant assault consumers face in their inboxes from marketers pushing work-at-home schemes, fake credit card offers and other frauds, as well as products from Viagra to pornography.

"The Federal Trade Commission needs to stop the epidemic now... before it gets completely out of hand and kills the online marketplace," she said.

In a statement, Howard Beales, the director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection said, the agency is concerned about the problem and will review the petitions from the three consumer groups. "We have brought numerous cases against deceptive and misleading spam practices, and that's exactly what we'll continue to do," he said.

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