Calif. Senator Counters Groups’ Anti-Spam Plea

NEW YORK California State Sen. Debra Bowen blasted an open letter sent to Congress last week by a coalition of advertising and marketing trade groups that urged the passage of national anti-spam legislation.

In the letter, published in last Thursday’s morning edition of Roll Call, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, Association of National Advertisers and Direct Marketing Association called for legislators to pass the CAN-SPAM Act (S. 877) or the Reduction in Distribution of Spam Act (H.R. 2214) [IQ Daily Briefing, Nov. 13].

“Advertisers love the congressional bills because they don’t can spam, they legalize it,” Bowen, D-Redondo Beach, said in a statement.

A federal law would preempt a California anti-spam law set to take effect Jan. 1, as well as virtually every other state law that restricts unsolicited e-mail. California’s law—the most wide-reaching to date—forbids sending most commercial e-mail messages to anyone in the state who has not explicitly requested them. Most of the other 36 state laws and the proposed federal law allow unsolicited e-mail until recipients ask to receive no more.

“There’s nothing ‘knee-jerk’ about the California law,” Bowen stated. “It couldn’t be clearer. If you want to e-mail an advertisement to someone you don’t already have a business relationship with, you need to get their permission first. That’s it. That’s how it works nationwide for fax advertising, and that’s how it’s going to work for e-mail advertising in California come next year, unless Congress decides to keep doing the DMA’s bidding.”

The three trade associations argue that inconsistent state laws will severely impact legitimate commercial e-mail communications, which, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, represent 12 percent of the $138 billion Internet-commerce marketplace.

“Spam is spam, there’s no such thing as ‘good spam’ and ‘bad spam’ based on what’s in the message or what company is sending you an unsolicited advertisement,” countered Bowen, who authored California’s 1998 anti-spam law and this year introduced S.B. 12. That bill, which proposed to replace the state’s “opt-out” statute with the nation’s first “opt-in” law, was defeated in the Assembly, though most of its provisions were later placed into S.B. 186, the bill signed into law this September.