Maine law requires that spam e-mail be identified as such.

AUGUSTA (AP) – It’s been a month and a half since Maine’s anti-spam law took effect, but many commercial e-mail senders still aren’t complying with regulations to shield consumers from the Internet junk mail.

A law that was passed by the Legislature last spring and took effect Sept. 13 requires commercial e-mail to include the designation “ADV” in the subject line showing it’s an advertisement, or “ADV:ADLT” if it’s adult material.

Also, the correspondence must include a valid return e-mail address, enabling recipients to write back to block additional unsolicited e-mail from that source.

But much of the commercial e-mail in Maine includes neither, and computer users’ e-mail boxes remain clogged with unwanted material pushing medical treatments and drugs, cheap loans and pornography. The Maine attorney general’s office acknowledged Monday that many commercial e-mailers appear to be in violation of the state law, but added that full compliance shouldn’t be expected overnight.

It takes time for word of the law to reach those to whom it’s directed, said Charles Dow, spokesman for Attorney General Steven Rowe.

Dow said the attorney general’s Web site does have a link to the Federal Trade Commission site where spam recipients are encouraged to send their complaints. The growing database of complaints will help Maine law enforcers to flag major violators and patterns of abuse, said Dow. “The effect is to gather a critical mass of information about the offenses and offenders before taking the next step,” said Dow. “It’s impossible to say when that will be.”

He offered reassurance to those who are awaiting action to restrict the flow of spam. “Help is on the way,” said Dow.

Consumers should not hold out too much hope for an effective no-spam list modeled after the federal do-not-call list, which has amassed more than 50 million phone numbers of consumers who want to block telemarketers’ calls, Internet service providers say.

Providers say phone and e-mail systems, as well as the marketers who employ them, are fundamentally different. Because people change e-mail addresses more frequently than phone numbers, a no-spam list would soon become too old to be useful.

When the U.S. Senate voted 97-0 last week to impose tough new limits against sending spam, supporters warned computer users not to expect any immediate end to the unwanted junk mail flowing into their e-mail boxes.

About 30 states have enacted anti-spam laws. Missouri, whose law is similar to Maine’s, is going to court to enforce its law.

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon’s suits filed earlier this month seek injunctions to prevent both defendants from further violations, as well as fines of up to $5,000 for each violation. Missouri’s law took effect Aug. 28.

On Friday, a California judge imposed a $2 million fine on a company accused of sending unsolicited bulk e-mail, and Attorney General Bill Lockyer warned that the decision foreshadowed a crackdown on spam.

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AP-ES-10-27-03 1404EST

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