A while back I asked the following question on the Email Marketer's Club's forum:
If we all agree that CAN-SPAM legislation is just the bare minimum that email marketers should adhere to in the US, doesn't that mean it's time the email industry lobbies for stricter legislation? In my view stricter US spam legislation (at least require prior consent before you can include someone to your mailinglist) will benefit the industry as a whole. What's your opinion on this?
Judging by the responses, you can say that this certainly is a topic that many of us feel passionate about. Here's what people said:
- "Yes, legislation for the right reasons, that can actually improve email as communication channel, I agree with. Legislation to punish only the people who can be found and sued is a waste of everybody's time."
- "I do think that ISP's need to be more accountable for delivery/non-delivery of messages. I would love to see legislation that says if you provide a spam complaint button, you must deliver the complaints to the sender (just like a bounce message). I would like to see legislation against black holing of messages (aka Hotmail). I would also like to see ISP's held responsible for their own networks being abused and pumping out most of the bot-net spam that occurs."
- "I believe CAN SPAM either needs to evolve or be superceded by stricter anti-spam legislation. However, I'm not holding my breath for that to happen anytime soon, seeing as it took at least eight years for CAN SPAM to be generated and pass."
- "The biggest disservice Can-Spam did was legitimize the concept of opt-out. If I had a dollar for every forum post or email from marketers assuming Can-Spam compliance was a carte blanche to send what was effectively spam, I'd be writing this from a laptop on a very expensive cruise. Which is why I would love to see the US switch to opt-in. Almost everywhere else has permission as part of their anti-spam legislation, and I don't see email marketing in those countries suffering as a result. After all, permission is a basic best practice."
- "The problem with legislation is that those who make these rules/laws often do not know the industry as we do and this makes the outcome unpredictable. Not to mention possible other political objectives than just making the world a bit better."
It seems that most people are against making legislation stricter, because they fear that only legitimate marketers will be punished. However, I continue to believe that the industry should lobby for an opt-in legislation in the US rather than the current opt-out legislation. The need to have permission before you can legally send marketing emails to consumers is instrumental in creating a positive perception of email marketing and will help safeguard email as an effective marketing channel in the longer term. And yes, I know that having permission is only the first step (of course your emails have to be relevant etc), but it's a very important first step.