U.S. HOUSE PASSES ANTI-SPAM MEASURE IN DAWN SESSION

Final Bill Expected to Go to White House This Week

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- As it raced through an all-night session toward Thanksgiving recess, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a national anti-spam bill just after dawn Saturday morning.
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The legislation, approved 392-5, follows last month's Senate vote in favor of a similar measure. The House and Senate are expected to resolve slight differences in their versions and send the final bill to the White House before Thursday's holiday.

'First step'
"It is an important first step in restoring [to] consumers control over their in-box," said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., who added that he hoped to toughen the law in the future.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, R-La., called it "huge consumer protection legislation."

However, observers note that while the concerted effort by Congress includes stiff fines and makes a determined statement against spam, or unsolicited bulk commercial e-mail, the actual law is unlikely to have a quick impact on the blizzard of unwanted e-mails now clogging the in-boxes of millions of consumers and businesses each day. Much of that e-mail comes from servers beyond U.S. borders.

The concept of a national law governing the use of e-mail marketing was ultimately backed by mainstream U.S. marketing organizations. Legitimate marketers came to believe that it would be far easier and more efficient to comply with a single national standard than be hobbled by a costly and complicated tangle of state laws. This fear was heightened earlier this year by the passage of a strict California anti-spam law that was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

Preempts state laws
If as expected the new federal anti-spam legislation is signed into law by the president, it would preempt all state laws.

The final measure empowers federal officials, state officials and Internet service providers -- but not private parties -- to sue spammers. California legislation had allowed individuals to sue.

It also requires marketers to give consumers a right to opt out of future e-mails, and act within 10 days when notified. It also grants the Federal Trade Commission authority to create a do-not-spam list; criminalizes the sending of spam with phony headers; and provides a $250 per e-mail penalty up to $2 million for sending e-mails to someone who has opted out. That penalty is up from $100 and $1 million in the earlier Senate legislation.

Real addresses required
In certain severe situations, the $2 million can be tripled. Under the bill, commercial e-mails would also be required to include the real physical addresses of the senders.

The legislation also allowed the Federal Communications Commission to require marketers get consumers to opt-in before sending bulk messages to cell phones.

While generally giving consumers more control and toughening enforcement, in two key areas the legislation comes down on the marketers' side.

"We don't agree with all of it, but we support it," said Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of the Direct Marketing Association. "It has to be a national standard. We can't have a patchwork."

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