E-mail marketer settles suit against MAPS

E-mail marketer Experian and the antispam group Mail Abuse Prevention System have settled a lawsuit filed by Experian after it was listed on MAPS' spam blacklist and effectively shut down for two days in November 2000.

Under the settlement terms, MAPS won't directly or indirectly, interfere with, block or impede the delivery of Experian's e-mail, nor publish information listing Experian as a spammer on its Realtime Blackhole List, except as allowed by the agreement.

Tom Detmer, president and general manager of emarketing services at Experian (formerly Exactis), says the settlement validates what Experian has been doing all along in terms of allowing email recipients to unsubscribe from a mailing list, or the opt-out method.

"What we were doing before is OK, and MAPS is not going to block us if we do that," he says.

Anne Mitchell, director of legal and public affairs for MAPS, says, "In the settlement, they (Experian) fully acknowledge that the standard which we advocate, they don't adhere to. That's why to us it's not a big concession. I understand that the emarketing industry wants to make it a big, huge concession. It's not going to have any effect on any other emarketing organizations out there that are not doing fully verified opt-in. They're still either listed or will be listed. A listing means that we're just letting the people who care know that in our opinion, they don't adhere to our standard."

Mitchell is referring to the higher standard that MAPS and some other ISPs adhere to, known by it's critics as double-opt in, requiring the recipient to re-affirm their decision to sign up for email.

"In terms of the list of compromises, that's one of the concessions we made," Detmer says. "Experian's acknowledging that MAPS advocates a higher standard. That's all it says."

Detmer says Experian doesn't take sides on the issue, and that 10 percent to 15 percent of their existing clients - businesses who wish to communicate with their customers via email - use the double opt-in practice. "I haven't seen this (percentage) increase or decrease. If you have given legitimate notice and choice to a customer, and have an ability to opt out and get off every mailing, then we're fine with that," he says.

Both sides agree the settlement doesn't set a legal precedent, since the case was settled without the courts issuing a ruling. And the settlement terms apply only to Experian, not to other email marketers doing the same thing.

Detmer says, "There's not necessarily a law or point of law that's been brought to and through the court system, so companies are still under the same sort of pressures with MAPS...with the exception of our company."

The net effect of the Oct. 1 settlement for Experian is that there hasn't been any recent blocking of its e-mail, according to Paul Schwartz, an attorney with Cooley Godward, LLP, who handed the case for Experian.

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