From the eec's Marketing RoundtablesWhat is the status of the FTC’s CAN-SPAM rulemaking and is the agency going to reduce the opt-out timeframe?

It’s already been more than two-and-a-half years since the FTC issued its discretionary CAN-SPAM Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in which the agency proposed, among other things, to reduce marketers’ allowable opt-out processing timeframe from 10 to three business days.

At last summer’s DMA Email Policy Summit, FTC Spam Coordinator Sana Chriss told attendees that “a team is in place,” and the FTC was working on finalizing its rules. However, at the same time Chriss noted that, because the rulemaking is discretionary, it’s up to the agency as to if and when final CAN-SPAM rules are issued at all, and if so what they’d ultimately say.

So will the opt-out timeframe be reduced? Nothing can be said for certain, but it is encouraging that Chriss acknowledged at that meeting that the vast majority of the 151 organizations who submitted comments to the agency in response to its NPRM described operational challenges that would make it overly burdensome to comply with a 3-day opt-out. You can review those comments for yourself here.

Another positive development has been the agency’s December 2007 report to Congress on the current state of the spam problem. In its “Next Steps” section, the document made no reference to reducing the opt-out timeframe, instead looking to technological developments like email authentication, collaborative government-industry initiatives and consumer education programs as more promising anti-spam measures.

So what should marketers do?

Stay “in-the-know.” Keep in mind that the opt-out period still could be reduced, and closely follow developments on the Hill as relates to any changes to CAN-SPAM. One way to make sure you’re not out in the cold when it comes to knowing what to comply with and how to do so is by participating in the eec’s Advocacy Roundtable! Members can sign up today by shooting an email to Ali Swerdlow at Not an eec member yet? Ali can help you with that too!

Make opting-out fast and simple. Some very reputable marketers have some very legitimate reasons for needing a full 10 business days to process opt-outs, and it’s essential that we preserve the status quo in that regard. That said, for the sake of maintaining positive customer relationships and improving deliverability, we always recommend processing opt-outs as fast as possible. Making the process shorter for your company will also put you on solid footing in the event that the FTC does eventually decide to reduce the opt-out timeframe.

We’d like to hear your thoughts on this subject. How would a reduced opt-out timeframe impact your company and/or clients? Also, has the lack of decisive clarity on additional outstanding CAN-SPAM issues such as “forward to a friend” and “multiple sender” campaigns been an impediment to your marketing efforts? Let us know by commenting below.

—eec Advocacy Roundtable co-chairs Jordan Cohen of Epsilon and Robb Walters of Costco

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