16 CFR Part 316; CAN-SPAM Rule: Rule Review; Request for Public Comments; Project No. R711010 #00100

Submission Number:
Leigh Butler
District of Columbia
Initiative Name:
16 CFR Part 316; CAN-SPAM Rule: Rule Review; Request for Public Comments; Project No. R711010
CAN--SPAM Rule, 16 CFR part 316, Project No. R711010 I write as a consumer in support of the regulations enforcing the CAN-SPAM Act, and urge their strengthening. I believe there is a continued need for the rule; that it has provided benefits to consumers; and that its benefits to consumers could be strengthened by several actions. I also urge the Commission to not contract the scope of messages defined as commercial, or as transactional or relationship. Finally, I believe the benefits to consumers outweigh the costs to consumers and to the regulated community. Like many people who first acquired email addresses at the start of this century, I followed basic advice: choose a professional email address that does not reveal a goofy nickname or the year of high school graduation. Avoid disclosing one's gender publicly in order to avoid trolls and harassment (on the internet, no one knows you're a woman, but they always assume one is lesbian, or at the least sexually attracted to women). My email address therefore consists of an initial for my first name, followed by my surname. As of late, especially in the past few years, I have been increasingly plagued by emails from companies with which I have never done business, who mistakenly believe that I have a commercial and/or transactional relationship with them. First, create safe harbors for senders of commercial and transactional emails that require a recipient to affirmatively "click" to indicate interest in being added to any email list. In my experience, while many nonprofit entities that use commercial services, like ConsumerContact, to manage email lists do require an affirmative opt-in, many for-profit entities do not. (Indeed, an affirmative opt-in is the federal government's practice on many e-mail lists to interested persons). On the flip side, adding a consumer to a commercial or transactional email, without the consumer's consent and without such protections, ought to be reportable to the FTC and grounds for the consumer himself or herself to pursue fines. Both of these modifications would greatly increase the benefit to consumers, and reduce the cost of unwanted messages. Second, substantially increase fines for entities that do not effectively provide methods for unsubscribing that require no further information beyond the email address and the desire to leave. In my experience, medical providers are among the worse. It appears that many doctor's offices and clinics outsource the maintenance of an email list to a third-party entity, and do not equip their staff to unsubscribe those whom they spam. On multiple occasions, I have been asked the first name, date of birth, and/or zip code of the patient whose identity is mistakenly linked to my email address. (I know none of this information regarding random strangers, and have tried reading the CAN-SPAM Act and existing regulations to staff, to no avail). Staff at medical offices then frequently reply that they do not know how to look up a record on the basis of an email address alone, and therefore cannot unsubscribe me. (Such searches are not a high burden: gentle reader of this comment, are not you yourself familiar with control-F?). If a sender of commercial and/or transactional email cannot demonstrate the ability to look up accounts by email address alone, or the ability of a consumer to de-subscribe by the one-click method contemplated in the regulation, this ought to be treated as a serious structural violation of the regulations, and appropriate civil remedies pursued. Third, the same provisions for removal from a mailing list ought to apply to emails from the government. The emails--sent to someone whose first name is not my own--from the Federal Student Aid Office of the Department of Education ought to include an unsubscribe option (and perhaps also, "addressee unknown", for misdirects). Thank you for this opportunity to comment, and for your considerations of this information and proposed modifications.