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  • August 17, 2006

Pass CAN-SEND Now: Executive Summary

We’re very close to writing letters to our representatives in Congress to have them reopen the CAN-SPAM Act and add a rule that says that companies have to start emailing people within 10 days of them signing up for newsletters—a sort of corollary to the rule that says companies have to honor unsubscribes within 10 days. Here’s why:

We did our initial research for our Retail Email Subscription Benchmark Study back in mid June, signing up for the email newsletters of 101 of the largest online retailers. In the eight-plus weeks since then, we have received regular emails from just 86 of those retailers. Of the 15 retailers, eight of them sent us welcome emails but nothing since: Amazon, American Eagle Outfitters, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Diamond.com, FTD, Lowe’s and Ross-Simons. The other seven retailers—1-800-Flowers, CDW, iTunes, Niketown, QVC, Sears and Walgreens—have sent nothing at all.

Now one might be conclude that after so many weeks that the subscription processes at these 15 retailers have completely failed, but we’re not so sure that can be said yet. The reason is that each week a few more of the subscriptions finally kick in. For instance, within the last week, we’ve started receiving regular emails from Sony and MLB. Within the last two weeks, from Reebok and Sam’s Club. And within the last three weeks, from Staples, Drs. Fosters & Smith and J. Crew.

While the sign-up processes at these retailers turned out not to be complete failures, they were anything but a success. Surely the average person expects to start receiving their email newsletters within a month, if not much sooner—which means that they were probably perturbed when the emails finally started rolling in, or that they went back after a few weeks and signed up for the newsletters again. Either way, the experience has become less than impressive.

So with all that said, we call on all retailers to make email friendlier by passing their own email sign-up bylaw—call it CAN-SEND—whereby they pledge to fulfill email newsletter subscriptions within 10 days of sign up.

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