California Enacts Anti-Spam Law

Beleaguered California governor Gray Davis on Sept. 23 signed into law a bill that will penalize those who send commercial e-mails to anyone in the state who hasn’t specifically requested them. The law, which also prohibits California-based companies from spamming anyone outside the state, calls for fines of $1,000 for each message and of up to $1 million per incident.

The broadest and widest-reaching anti-spam law in the country, the California bill was designed to have no loopholes, said its sponsor, State Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Los Angeles). “There’s no way of getting around it,” he said in a statement.

Nonetheless, Direct Marketing Association president/CEO Bob Wientzen told “The New York Times” that “the most active spammers—those selling the likes of Viagra, penis enlargement products, and mortgage deals—aren’t going to pay attention to this.” Instead, he believes the bill was enacted by “a group of politicians trying to cash in on a popular issue and [that it] will create more confusion and problems than solutions.”

The law states that recipients must explicitly agree to receive e-mail from each advertiser. In describing the bill recently, Murray said that the state isn’t looking to differentiate from spammers and legitimate e-mail marketers. And if the latter rent e-mail lists from consumers who have agreed to receive e-mail offers, those companies are still subject to fines if they don’t get permission from each recipient for their individual offers.

“We are very diligent with our out-in e-mail procedures, but with this new California law, we would consider requesting a second opt-in confirmation from our California customers,” says Tracy Lamb, director of marketing for reading tools cataloger Levenger. By requesting a second opt-in, she adds, “hopefully, this would eliminate those who ‘forgot’ that they’d requested Levenger e-mail, as we would cite the law in the second e-mail request.”

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