The U.S. Do Not Spam Me List

President Bush signed a bill that allows the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to study and implement a “do not spam” list similar to the “do not call” list already in place for telemarketers.

Under the bill as passed the FTC has until near the end of the summer of 2004 to study the problem and devise a method for creating and distributing the list.

Once the list is in place it will probably not take effect legally, formally or officially until after January 1, 2005 (almost a full year from now).

Once put into place it would be illegal for any company based in the United States to generate spam to anyone who is on that list, of course certain exceptions would be in place as exist in the “do not call” list. Political and religious organizations would probably be exempt. So would any company you have current dealings with, such as a bank who send you e-mail product and service information. Also, off-shore spammers would not be affected by the U.S. law, although if they represent U.S. based firms they could face problems from the FTC over their spamming policies...

The Federal law now overrides any state laws (and there are already a few state laws out there) that are of a similar nature. The Federal law does not override any state law that covers different aspects of spamming that is not in an obvious conflict. For example, if a state law does not allow for political or religious exemptions that has been replaced by any regulation in the Federal law (of course this point is still up in the air, as the FTC must decide who gets exemptions and how they are legally made).

The Federal “do not spam” act will not protect you from off-shore spammers, although several other countries have already enacted tougher anti-spam laws. Countries who do not enact such anti-spam laws and are not obligated by treaty to reciprocate with the U.S. action may become havens for e-mail spamming companies who act as fronts for U.S. based firms. It is unclear if the U.S. firms could get fined for using off-shore e-mail services for advertising at this time, as the FTC must decide that issue as well!

It should be noted, that we, here at Issues, have already been called on the phone by telemarketers even though we are on the do not call phone list of the FCC and FTC. How is this? Telemarketers call up and ask for a name that is not in the household. When you tell them that person doesn’t exist they ask if you want to learn why they were calling “so and so.”

At this point if you say the wrong thing, the company can use a loophole in the law to start calling you again.

If you receive a telemarketing call, immediately tell them that the phone number is on the FCC “do not call list” and you are the registered name and have not authorized any solicitations. Then ask for their company name and their operator name. That will usually shut them up. Also tell them you don’t want to be called again and that you will be reporting the call to the FCC and FTC.

If you at any time say “YES” to hearing the information then they can legally put you back on the “ok to call” list.

Once the U.S. anti-spam law takes effect you should be able to click on a link that takes you off the list, but only if the company and spammer is based inside the United States or a country with whom we have a treaty that covers anti-spamming.

The FTC will eventually published the details of how you get on this list (expect to see that sometime between July 1, 2004 and September 1, 2004) and the list will take effect no sooner than January 1, 2005.

Currently this is no actual list (in fact, there are some totally bogus sites and lists used to dupe you into giving your e-mail to spammers) and the FTC has no formal idea as to how it will work. The law is still being studied, which includes getting input from spammers and advertisers. When the FTC does create the list later this year you should be able to find true and correct information about the list at the official Federal Trade Commission website (

Don’t expect this law to end spam in the year 2005, but it is a small start. Some of us here at Issues eventually foresee a tax or charge on e-mail being instituted by the year 2010, as e-mail is going to have a strong financial impact on the world postal system. At that time spammers will have to pay per piece of e-mail or buy a yearly license to do their spamming, just like direct mail advertisers have to pay postage to send you junk mail at your home or office. As with these people, expect them to get a more favorable rate! Currently it cost a U.S. citizen 37 cents to send a letter, while “snail mail spammers” get a pre-sorted rate of something around cents or less per piece.

Those of you on the “do not call” list from the FCC, expect to get the same “phony sounding fictitious name” calls like the one we recently got. That is one way the telemarketers are getting around that list!

Remember, if there’s a way around something the telemarketers and spammers will use it!

Be aggressive with them, state you are on the do not call list and do not want to be called. Collect their company name and information, report all violations to both the FTC and FCC.

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