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To Spam Or Not To Spam!
By Joe Reinbold

Everyday we open our email "inbox" and it seems to be filled with more and more unsolicited electronic junk mail or Spam as it is called. How much time do you spend everyday purging all these bulk mail items? How many messages a day do you get that start out "Saw your classified ad and thought you might be interested...." or "Hope your internet sales are good, I'd like to share something with you..."? Probably just as many as we get. Most have a paragraph that states that all you have to do to get off the list is reply with "Remove" in the subject. Over 50% of the time we try that, the message comes back because the email address doesn't exist!
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Maybe you like unsolicited bulk email, and maybe you don't. Maybe you use it or maybe you are thinking about using it for your own offers. That's a personal business decision that you have to make. You have to think about the risks you are taking. Will you lose your service provider because of all the complaints? How many potential customers will get ticked off because of the bulk approach you are taking? And even worse, is there a chance you might wind up in some legal trouble?

Well, all this "spamming" IS having an effect. It might not be the effect that the spammers want, but it will probably make all the people who don't want it, very happy.

Anytime there is something that makes thousands, even millions of people complain, it will get the attention of State or Federal lawmakers. So nobody should be surprised that there has been a lot of activity both on the Federal and State levels to put a stop to unsolicited email. There have been a number of bills proposed in Washington, one State bill was passed and several other States have bills pending.

In the U.S. Congress, our (NJ) Representative Chris Smith sponsored a Bill that would amend the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act which made it illegal to send unsolicited junk fax mail. It was passed after everyone started complaining about junk faxes. The amendment would ban mass unsolicited commercial email. The fax law had an exception which would also apply to unsolicited email. It states that it would be unlawful unless the parties had a pre-existing business or personal relationship or it would be OK if the sender provides the date and time the message was sent, the senders email address, and the identity of the sender. The exception weakens the bill somewhat based on our experience with unsolicited faxes. Very few that we receive have the sender's name or telephone on it.

Several other bills are pending at the Federal level. One bill would require that the word "advertisement" appear at the top of the message and that the sender be fully identified by name, email address and telephone number. Another bill would outlaw false headers and return addresses for unsolicited email advertisements and require mailers to honor removal requests.

Only one State as far as we know has actually passed a bill regarding unsolicited email. That is the State of Nevada. The law requires that such messages have proper sender identification and that they include "opt out" or removal instructions. An Assemblyman in California, Gary Miller, has introduced "The Internet Consumer Protection Act". The act seeks to protect Internet consumers from unsolicited commercial email. The act would expand existing law which prohibits unsolicited faxes by adding a provision to restrict unsolicited email except where there is a pre-existing relationship between the sender and recipient. This would seem to be a slight loophole to us. We would see this as meaning that if you ever make an innocent inquiry about some product or service and the originator of that product or service just happens to be a large bulk mailer, have you just established a pre-existing relationship?

As we said at the beginning of this article, if you decide to go down the spam route you should be willing to take risks. You might just be sending your unsolicited emails into a State that has a specific law against it! There are a lot safer ways to do your marketing online. There are many subscriber only based lists such as the newsletter you are reading. Plus there are many legitimate "opt-in" mailing list services out there. Use some caution and common sense, it will pay in the long run!

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Article by Joe Reinbold, Publisher of Home Income Quarterly E-dition, a weekly online marketing and home business newsletter. To subscribe visit The Entrepreneur's Home Business Link where you will find the solutions to your home business needs at: http://www.homebizlink.com

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