FTC Survey Tests Top E-Tailers Compliance with Can-Spams Opt-Out Provisions

Most Merchants Honoring Consumers Requests to Turn Off Future Mailings

For Release

In a survey to test whether top e-tailers are allowing consumers to opt out of receiving promotional or marketing messages, the FTC has determined that 89 percent of the online merchants it tested are honoring requests to halt future mailings.

The CAN-SPAM Act, which became effective January 1, 2004, requires that senders of commercial e-mail provide recipients with a clear and conspicuous notice that they have the right to opt out of receiving future marketing messages, provide a mechanism to allow them to exercise that right, and honor requests to be removed from future mailings.

To assess whether e-tailers were complying with the opt-out provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act, FTC staff developed a list of 100 top e-tailers – those who make significant use of the Internet to market their goods or services – and visited their sites. Most of the sites solicited consumers to sign up for special offers, promotions, updates and newsletters via e-mail. FTC staff created three new e-mail accounts and opted in to receive the offers and promotions once for each of the three e-mail accounts and monitored the accounts for six weeks. Then staff notified the e-tailers they wished to stop receiving commercial e-mail messages.

The study showed a high rate of compliance with the CAN-SPAM opt-out provisions. All of the e-tailers who sent e-mail to the FTC accounts provided clear notice of recipients’ right to opt out of receiving future mail and provided recipients with an opt-out mechanism. Eighty nine percent of the e-tailers honored all three of the opt-out requests made by FTC staff and 93 percent complied with opt-out requests for at least some accounts.

Copies of the report are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Claudia Bourne Farrell
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2181
Staff Contact:

Colleen Robbins
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2548


Catherine Harrington-McBride
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2452