Spam Law Test

A year after Congress enacted the CAN-SPAM legislation, our tests show that unsubscribing from marketing e-mail can still be hard.

Cleansing our inboxes of spam was supposed to get easier following passage of the nation's sweeping antispam law, the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act. The law, which celebrates its first anniversary in January, requires (among other things) that recipients be allowed to opt out of being included in a marketing mailing list, simply by clicking a link on an e-mail notice from the marketer. In addition, the CAN-SPAM Act establishes harsh penalties for senders whose e-mail messages fail to meet its requirements.

Testing the Law

Few people seriously expected CAN-SPAM to discourage the prolific no-name offshore spammers. However, in a test in which we signed up for and then attempted to opt out of receiving marketing e-mail from 100 heavily trafficked U.S. Web sites, we were surprised to discover that when we tried to unsubscribe, several of the best-known sites--among them to send us e-mail after the ten-day grace period that the law allows had expired.

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