FTC: Consumer Privacy Comments Concerning The Email Channel--P954807
June 5, 1997
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me last week.
I am enclosing my comments that are relevant to the Workshop next week.
I will be arriving in Washington on Tuesday evening and look forward to sitting in the audience on both Wednesday and Thursday.
If you feel that you need my services on a panel, I will make myself available. Please feel free to contact me at the last minute if you need a replacement panelist.
I can always be reached via my voice mail/pager at 800-901-0848.
John Lawlor direct line 561-483-1146
is a division of FDDS, Inc.
COMMENTS SUBMITTED CONCERNING
Session Two: Consumer Online Privacy
The Email Channel and its parent company, FDDS, Inc., supply Email Hosting and Distribution services to publishers, direct marketers and other brand marketers.
We have a 100% spam-freesm policy.
Our Company will only deliver Email for clients that we have reason to believe:
One of our founders has an eight-year history in Email distribution of Email newsletters containing commercial messages to a base of "subscribers."
Until May 1996, our core business had been delivering weekly "newsletters" by Email and handling the associated database maintenance, subscribes and unsubscribes.
FDDS/The Email Channel was the first company to distribute "opt-in" rental Email for an established direct marketing company.
In May of 1996 we began the hosting and distribution of "rentable" Emailing lists for a major international publisher. This publisher had collected a list of subscribers who were interested and willing to receive related advertising material. These subscribers had filled out a qualification form requiring over 20 answers regarding their job description, purchasing interests, etc. This qualification form was typical of controlled circulation magazines, One of the questions asked for permission to send the subscriber advertising or promotional material that was related to the publication's editorial content.
3) Consumers want to know: How they got on the list and How to get off
Our policies require that each message has the list owner's name, and that each message contains a clear method on how to unsubscribe.
It is our observation that consumers expect to have problems in unsubscribing from "spam" lists and they carry that expectation over to any Email material that they decide they no longer want to receive. FDDS/The Email Channel has spent tens of thousands of dollars developing systems to insure that consumers receiving material distributed by our Company can remove themselves with a minimum of inconvenience. Removing (unsubscribing) from a list that we manage is a simple process. We also provide a specific Email address for "questions" or problems in the footer of every message.
4) Major Marketers are not the Spammers
Branded Marketers are more afraid of Email Direct Marketing than is commonly believed. The spammers are not the Fortune 5000 companies. Branded marketers have more to lose by offending the Internet consumer than they have to gain. Spamming is largely a fly-by-night offensive.
5) Fraudulent use of an Email address or domain should be a crime
It should be a crime to impersonate another person's or company's Email address or domain. It should be illegal to impersonate another person or entity. A common practice among spammers is to mimic an Email address or domain to avoid the wrath of the recipients of the spamming messages. This theft is fraud and can inflict considerable economic damage on the owner of that Email address or domain.
6) Legislation to ban unsolicited commercial Email will not stop the problem
Legislation to ban unsolicited commercial Email will not stop the problem. Spammers will just mail from foreign shores.
7) Legislation to ban unsolicited commercial Email will only hurt legitimate marketers
Legislation to ban unsolicited commercial Email will only hurt legitimate marketers who will be afraid of breaking the law and shy away from a powerful communications medium. This will inhibit the overall growth of a free and open Internet.
8) An open market will prevail
At Comdex this week there were several products unveiled that will easily and cost-effectively allow the consumer to cut down on the spam that they receive. We believe that the resourcefulness of the computer industry will provide solutions to the problem.
In August of 1996, the publisher's List Management Division announced the availability of several highly selectable opt-in Email lists available for rental by advertisers. FDDS/The Email Channel was chosen as the official "bonded" mailing house for the Email hosting and distribution. The decision to consolidate database management and delivery with one trusted company was a conscious decision on the part of the publisher to protect the consumer's Email addresses from being inappropriately used or distributed. Additionally, all advertising material distributed to the rental Email lists requires the approval of the publisher and must be " relevant" to the subscriber base.
FDDS/The Email Channel has been in a unique position to observe subscriber/consumer reactions to commercial Email.
Our observation is that Email Direct Marketing is a powerful medium when used in an ethical and responsible manner. Our customers' customers have found that sending relevant material to a demographically-selected target audience that has given permission to receive Email marketing material is very effective. A majority of companies that have used Email direct marketing have placed multiple orders due to the success of their initial Email campaigns.
FDDS/The Email Channel has no experience with delivering unsolicited Email, so we cannot make any comparison to the results of unsolicited versus opt-in Email campaigns.
It is our opinion, based on feedback from subscribers and our own use of the Internet, that:
1) Targeted and Relevant Email is appreciated and desired
Targeted, relevant marketing will always be more effective than the shotgun approach of unsolicited commercial Email. Across our customer base we have seen a consistent opt-in rate in excess of 60% of the subscriber base. Consumers appreciate relevant material and are turned off by material that is unrelated to their current interests.
2) "Spam is in the eye of the beholder"
You can't please all of the people all of the time--in other words "Spam is in the eye of the beholder." We have observed that subscribers will shout "spam" whenever they are no longer interested in the Email received, even when they have gone to the trouble of filling out a lengthy form and given permission to receive marketing material. This trait is not limited to advertising messages-- they are just as inclined to shout "spam" when they are receiving a publication's weekly newsletter.
Shouting "spam" seems to be a knee-jerk reaction on the Internet that has resulted from a helpless feeling of overflowing mailboxes with material from companies who are unresponsive to requests to remove the recipient.
9) The DMA's (Direct Marketing Association) proposed Email Preference Service
The DMA's (Direct Marketing Association) proposed Email Preference Service should be given a realistic chance to work. The reality is that legitimate marketers that collect Email addresses will not allow their names to be distributed to mailers or multiple fulfillment houses. These customer lists are valuable corporate assets and legitimate marketers will protect these lists by trusting them only to a "bonded" Email hosting and Distribution company. We believe that Email fulfillment companies like FDDS/The Email Channel will use the DMA's e-MPS service and honor the consumer's request. While Email is inexpensive to distribute, the handling of errors and angry flames is labor intensive and expensive. My company and my clients have nothing to gain by mailing to angry consumers, in fact, as a company in the fulfillment business, mailing to consumers that do not want the material can be a costly process.
FDDS/The Email Channel believes so strongly in the DMA's e-MPS that we spent over a month preparing a proposal for the contract.
FDDS/The Email Channel has chosen to take a 100% spam-free policy for our company. We dislike receiving the glut of unsolicited commercial Email but feet that legislation to ban unsolicited commercial Email is not appropriate. We do not believe that legislation will stop the spammers, it will only drive them offshore, inhibit legitimate Email marketing and slow the growth of the most beneficial communication mediums that has been invented.
The only area where we feel that legislation is appropriate concerns the theft of a person's or company's identity. Spoofing the identity of another is a common practice by spammers and needs to be illegal and carry substantial penalties that are enforceable.
Thank you your attention to our thoughts.
John Lawlor, President