Spam Affects E-Commerce, User Survey Shows

WASHINGTON (04/12/2000) - E-mail users who are fed up with receiving spam overwhelmingly believe that their online shopping activities open the door to more junk e-mail, according to a survey released today. Users also think that U.S. Congress should pass a law to control spam, the survey revealed.

Three members of Congress who are co-sponsoring antispam legislation in the House said the survey substantiates the need for their bill.

The Spam Recycling Center, which started off less than a year ago as a place on the Web where consumers could register their gripes about spam, said 1,410 people participated in the survey posted at the center's site during the first half of last month.

Participants were asked how they believe their e-mail address was obtained, whether they think the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) is working to protect consumers from spam, and whether U.S. Congress should pass a law to control it.

Forty-three percent said it was "very likely" and 29 percent said it was "somewhat likely" that their e-mail address was obtained by a retailer when they visited the retailer's Web site. Ian Oxman, co-founder of the Spam Recycling Center and president of ChooseYourMail.com, said such a user sentiment isn't healthy for the continued growth of electronic commerce.

"People believe participating in e-commerce is what's creating spam," Oxman said at a news conference here today called to release the results of the survey.

Survey participants also indicated they were highly skeptical about whether online retailers and other Web sites can do a good job of regulating themselves when it comes to the question of how they use the information they collect from visitors to their sites. More than half of those polled strongly disagreed that the DMA is working to protect consumers from spam.

On the question of legislation, 42 percent said they strongly support and 27 percent said they would likely support a law that makes spamming a crime and requires U.S. government enforcement. An overwhelming majority also supported passage of a law that gives ISPs (Internet service providers) the right to sue spammers for trespassing on their networks.

"E-mail users are now ready and willing to ask the federal government to help with this problem, and, secondly, they don't believe the industry is willing to (control spam) on their own," Oxman said.

The House members who are sponsoring an antispam bill, Representatives Heather Wilson, a Republican from New Mexico; Gary Miller, a Republican from California; and Gene Green, a Democrat from Texas; said the survey confirms what their constituents have been telling them about spam.

Their bill overwhelmingly passed the U.S. House Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection [See "Spam Bill Passes House Subcommittee," March 23.] Wilson said the bill is expected to go before the full Commerce Committee for a vote within a few weeks.

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