The measure enjoys enough support to win the Senate Commerce Committee’s stamp of approval when it is brought up for a committee vote this month, tentatively scheduled for May 16, the Montana Republican said.
“It looks like we’re finally going to get some action on spamming,” Burns said. “I think the bill is in pretty good shape right now.”
Burns said he was confident the bill would pass the Senate, although Majority Leader Tom Daschle has not yet committed to bring it up for a vote.
While 22 states have passed anti-spam legislation, efforts in Congress have stumbled over opposition from direct marketers who say their activities would be unfairly limited.
The Federal Trade Commission has since February gone after “spammers” who violate existing laws that prohibit false or deceptive trade practices.
Spammers who use deceptive subject lines or do not respond to consumer requests to be taken off their contact lists are candidates for FTC action, which rarely results in fines or jail time.
Burns’ bill, co-sponsored by Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, would not impose any new restrictions on commercial e-mail.
Rather, it would strengthen the enforcement authority of the FTC and state attorneys general, allowing them to impose fines of up to $30 per e-mail, with a cap of out $1.5 million.
Spammers that hide their identities would also face criminal penalties, and the bill would allow Internet service providers to sue to keep them off their networks.
Burns said spam annoyed Internet users and imposed economic costs on businesses whose e-mail networks carried the unwanted messages.
On a personal level, he said his own e-mail account was overrun with spam.
“I bet you there’s 50 (unsolicited messages) on there when I get home tonight, and not one I recognize,” Burns said.