Although "Can-Spam" legislation signed into law yesterday by President Bush will have a minimal effect on the e-mail efforts of insurance marketers in the near term, the law opens the door for the creation of a national spam registry which could eventually pose a threat to insurers, who are already subject to the Do Not Call legislation.
According to Craig Weber, senior analyst, Celent Communications (Boston), the law"which preempts stiffer state anti-spam laws that have been enacted in states that include Washington, California and Virginia"will require insurers to provide an opt-out mechanism within e-mails as well as a physical mailing address. Carriers must also identify these e-mails as advertisements. "This is not as dramatic a shift as some make it sound," says Weber. "Insurance carriers practicing best practices already provide an opt-out mechanism within e-mails."
Carriers also probably don't need to worry about Can-Spam legislation that prohibits the falsification of "from" (sender) information and false subject lines of e-mail solicitations that trick recipients into opening them. Although violators can be fined as much as $6 million and jailed for up to five years, under the law, "I don't know of any case where an insurer has used such tactics," says Weber. "It's possible, however, that agents or agencies might use it, but it's increasingly unlikely."
But in cases where producers do use such tactics, can insurers be held responsible? Although it's still unclear, Weber speculates that it would depend on whether the producer force was captive or independent and if a specific company or product was named in the e-mail.
But, should the Federal Trade Commission adopt a do-not-spam registry, P&C carriers especially, will have even bigger problems to worry about. "Without the ability to make cold calls and send e-mails for marketing purposes, P&C insurers may have to rely more heavily on efforts like event sponsorship and advertising in order to drive requests for more information," says Weber. "Insurers will have to redirect their efforts so that customers begin to contact carriers for information. [A spam registry law] could severely restrict the universe of people who can be marketed to through e-mail."