Makes Misleading Unsolicited E-mails a Crime

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WASHINGTON ( -- The Senate Commerce Commitee today approved an anti-"spam" e-mail bill along with privacy legislation that was just altered Thursday and moved the proposals to the Senate floor.

The spam bill, sponsored by Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., would make it a crime to send unsolicited e-mail with false or misleading header information or a misleading subject line and would require that any unsolicited message contain a valid return address.

An amendment to the bill was added today limiting its scope to apply only to unsolicited e-mail, a provision that was welcomed by direct marketers.

They are, however,

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more concerned about the privacy legislation sponsored by Sen. Earnest "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C., which yesterday was extended to affect offline as well as online companies.

The legislation would open the door to lawsuits if "sensitive" information, such as credit reports, was released, even if the marketer says the release was "accidental."

Harm to consumer
Under the legislation, marketers could face individual lawsuits or class action suits with a minimum $500 fine per violation when, because the information was released, "harm" to the consumer can be demonstrated.

Marketing groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week claimed that the bill would allow companies to face expensive lawsuits in situations in which the harm caused by an accidental release of information was minor.

They also said the legislation conflicts with other government privacy legislation covering financial service and medical records.

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