E-Mail Marketers Announce Antispam Standards

The Responsible Electronic Communication Alliance (RECA) Monday announced a set of proposed standards to limit the amount of spam, or unwanted e-mail, consumers receive from online advertisers.

According to a statement, the proposals - based on those endorsed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this summer - are designed to respect consumers' online privacy while meeting the needs of Internet service providers. The FTC has pushed for companies to develop self-regulatory practices.

In the statement, RECA President Christopher Wolf said, "These proposals will help put the consumer in charge. That means giving consumers greater choice on whether to receive mailings, offering them clear and conspicuous notice of what they're signing up for, and the ability to remove themselves quickly from any mailing list."

In addition, Wolf said RECA is developing a "seal of approval" program, with tough enforcement standards, to identify companies that subscribe to RECA's proposed standards.

RECA, formed earlier this month, includes online advertisers DoubleClick Inc. and 24/7 Media, both in New York.

But Jason Catlett, president of Junkbusters Corp., a privacy advocacy organization in Green Brook, N.J., said the standards proposed by RECA don't go far enough.

Catlett said that although RECA calls for a "single opt-in" system - asking consumers to give their permission to receive advertising e-mails- in most cases, the best practices system is the "double-opt" plan. Under this system, consumers who sign up to receive advertising e-mail from a marketing company would have to confirm their request a second time.

"There are just too many people who sign other people up as a prank," Catlett said. "So companies should use the double opt-in system at all times. But RECA doesn't want to do that because they're afraid consumers will have [opt-in] remorse and not [sign up] a second time."

But RECA's president disagreed. "Our standards are tailored to specific circumstances, and there are cases where double-opt in [will be used] but in other cases where single-opt in is sufficient," Wolf said. "We don't think a rigid rule is appropriate or in the consumer's best interest."

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