Businesses Cry The Spam Blues

Spam scam, email, online fraud CBS/AP

In addition to being annoying, e-mailed spam costs American businesses billions of dollars in lost time, productivity and e-business as it reduces consumer confidence in the Internet, officials told lawmakers Tuesday.

"Consumers are getting inundated with pornographic or false and misleading e-mails that diminishes their faith in e-commerce, undermining many of the benefits," said Joseph Rubin of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

One estimate shows that businesses lose about $10 billion a year because of lost productivity, bandwidth costs and money spent on anti-spam tools. In addition, consumers are likely to delete legitimate business e-mails as they delete spam, Rubin said.

A House Judiciary subcommittee, led by Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., plans to vote on an anti-spam bill soon.

CBS News Capitol Hill Correspondent Bob Fuss reports the proposal would require senders of bulk e-mail to stop using fake first lines to pretend its personal mail instead of an offer for loans, pills or pornography. They would have to say who they are and let consumers "opt out" to stop getting e-mail from them.

"Spam is undermining consumer confidence in the utility of e-mail and harming the ability of consumers and businesses to do legitimate e-commerce," Coble said.

However, while spam is a legitimate target for legislation, business e-mail is not, said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va. "Even commercially-sponsored e-mail has some First Amendment rights," Scott said.

A consumers group said Americans should have the right to block all advertising e-mail, including legitimate business e-mail.

"Consumers should have the ability to say no to all spam, even when that spam comes from companies that are not engaged in fraud," said Chris Murray of Consumer Union.

One problem for anti-spam legislation: Many bulk e-mailers use servers outside the U.S. — and outside the reach of U.S. laws.
  • Lloyd Vries

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