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FTC slaps tell-a-friend spammer

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Sunday March 26, 2006 )

Aside from the “offer” aspects were the FTC’s concerns with a number of points relating to the CAN-SPAM Act; including:

– the form of incentivation to encourage the referrer to send the email

– the initial email appearing to be sent from the referrer

– the misleading subject line

– the presentation of the body content of the email, leading the recipient to believe that the message had been written by the referrer.

– the company repeatedly following up with referred parties without their permission and using the original referrer identity in each of those follow ups.

– the faulty opt-out process

– the sale of data collected from the forms to third parties

I’m not really clear on the second point in regards to tell-a-friend scripts. In many cases, including the free recommendation scripts that I offer, the script does insert the referrer’s email address for the “From” line. I’ll continue investigating this, but if you’re using an application that does the same, it may be wise to do your own research.

Aside from that, as far as I can tell, the TTB tell a friend scripts version 1 and version 2 comply with the CAN SPAM Act – unless of course you alter the text considerably to make it appear that the referrer wrote the note and you use the data generated by the scripts in an inappropriate manner.
It would appear that the important thing to include in the tell-a-friend note itself:

a) A declaration in the body text of how the email was generated; e.g. “X has used our Tell-a-Friend form to send you this note.”

b) The signature in the note, if one is used, should be yours and not the referrer

I also strongly recommend not using the data collected by the scripts for any other purpose except to monitor progress. In fact, I delete the results from my own tell a friend implementations every 24 hours to ensure that the data doesn’t wind up in the wrong hands.

Again, if you’re concerned with the legality of your tell a friend script implementation, consult a legal professional – I’m definitely not a lawyer :).

Related resources

Free tell a friend script – version 1
Free tell a friend script – version 2

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The FTC recently fined a US company around $900k for spamming offenses committed via a “tell a friend” type campaign. Tell a friend scripts are a great viral marketing tool, but you need to be careful how you use them; especially in terms of the contents of the recommendation email and what you do with the data generated by these forms.

In the complaint lodged by the FTC, it was alleged that the company was offering free movie tickets to people who referred 5 other people to the same offer, through the use of a tell-a-friend type application. The company would then also send multiple emails to the people referred, without their permission, using the identity of the referrer in what appeared to be a personalized email in each instance.

In order to get the free movie tickets, a number of hoops had to be jumped through, including signing up for other offers.

Aside from the “offer” aspects were the FTC’s concerns with a number of points relating to the CAN-SPAM Act; including:

– the form of incentivation to encourage the referrer to send the email

– the initial email appearing to be sent from the referrer

– the misleading subject line

– the presentation of the body content of the email, leading the recipient to believe that the message had been written by the referrer.

– the company repeatedly following up with referred parties without their permission and using the original referrer identity in each of those follow ups.

– the faulty opt-out process

– the sale of data collected from the forms to third parties

I’m not really clear on the second point in regards to tell-a-friend scripts. In many cases, including the free recommendation scripts that I offer, the script does insert the referrer’s email address for the “From” line. I’ll continue investigating this, but if you’re using an application that does the same, it may be wise to do your own research.

Aside from that, as far as I can tell, the TTB tell a friend scripts version 1 and version 2 comply with the CAN SPAM Act – unless of course you alter the text considerably to make it appear that the referrer wrote the note and you use the data generated by the scripts in an inappropriate manner.
It would appear that the important thing to include in the tell-a-friend note itself:

a) A declaration in the body text of how the email was generated; e.g. “X has used our Tell-a-Friend form to send you this note.”

b) The signature in the note, if one is used, should be yours and not the referrer

I also strongly recommend not using the data collected by the scripts for any other purpose except to monitor progress. In fact, I delete the results from my own tell a friend implementations every 24 hours to ensure that the data doesn’t wind up in the wrong hands.

Again, if you’re concerned with the legality of your tell a friend script implementation, consult a legal professional – I’m definitely not a lawyer :).

Related resources

Free tell a friend script – version 1
Free tell a friend script – version 2



 

 
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