SMEs disagree on spam approach

Small-business owners have disagreed on what action the US Congress should take on spam.

Small-business owners have disagreed on what action the US Congress should take on spam.

A national do-not-e-mail list would hurt small companies trying to market their products to customers, while others disagreed, saying spam needs to be stopped.

One former business owner said that frustrations over the amount of spam his internet T-shirt sales business was receiving drove him to sell the business.

"If the problem continues to grow at the rate it is growing, it will be impossible for businesses to rely on the internet and e-mail as a form of communication," said Bruce Goldberg, founder of Weathermen Records.

Goldberg's business was getting 15 spam e-mails for every one legitimate e-mail, and even after using a spam filter, the ratio was still three to one.

"The hard part was distinguishing the legitimate e-mail from junk, as I have to treat each new e-mail as a potential customer," he added. "Even as careful as I was, I would still lose customers by accidentally deleting their messages."

Others urged Congress not to go too far in its effort to regulate unsolicited commercial e-mail.

A national do-not-spam registry, included with a spam bill the Senate approved on 22 October, would prohibit small businesses from prospecting for customers through e-mail, said John Rizzi, chief executive officer of e-Dialog, an e-mail marketing service provider.

The national do-not-spam list would be a "disaster" for small businesses, said Rizzi. Most true spammers would not abide by the list, but legitimate small businesses will.

A representative of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), required by the Senate bill to create a report on implementing a do-not-spam list, said the agency continues to oppose the registry.

Unlike the national do-not-call telemarketing list that went into effect this month, a do-not-e-mail list would be tougher to enforce, because it is easy for spammers to hide their identities on the internet, said Howard Beales, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

"Our key concern about this do-not-spam [list] is enforceability," he said. "These are not people who pay a lot of attention to legal rules. We're concerned that a do-not-spam list would not make any appreciable reduction, any observable reduction, in the volume of spam."

Senator Charles Gonzalez questioned if a national spam law would work at all if spammers are so difficult to find.

"So until technology allows us to identify the senders... it doesn't matter what legislative scheme we come up with, it's going to be very difficult," he said.

Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service

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