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Remove.org, the "Do Not Spam" list outfit that has been accused of making false claims about its offering and even spamming people itself, has been warned by the Michigan Attorney General to buck up its act.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox yesterday issued a legal notice to Remove.org warning the company that it faces a potential lawsuit under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act for deceptively marketing its supposedly anti-spam service to consumers.

Cox criticised the organisation for making illegitimate claims that it was "a complete service offering protection from spam email, junk mail, and telemarketers". The Attorney General takes issues with a number of other claims made by Remove.org on its web site, including calling itself a non-profit organisation; promising to stop all spam and telemarketing; related claims that the outfit would "protect children against adult material" and claiming it has offices in Washington DC - when the address it gives is only a private mailbox.

Remove.org claims that it offers more protection than the federal government's Do-Not-Call list, because Remove.org will contact "the companies not covered by the National Do-Not-Call Registry and have your phone number removed from their lists", also provoked the ire of Michigan law officers.

In a hard-hitting statement, Cox said: "This organisation's Web site is decorated with the American flag and the Statue of Liberty, yet there are few more un-American practices than lying to the public about being a charity recognised by the IRS. Remove.org's blatant deception is a slap in the face of the many legitimate charities that take pains to comply with state and federal charity laws.

"The representations this company makes about its service are outrageous. The boastful claim that consumers will see 'no more annoying and offensive spam' is itself offensive.

"Spammers who send pornographic images and deceive consumers for the purpose of obtaining their personal information are not likely to change their ways merely because a consumer has paid ten dollars to become a 'member' of this bogus charity," he added.

Remove.org has ten days to contact Cox's office to explain its practices. Unless an agreement is reached with the company, the Attorney General will be authorized to file a lawsuit under the MCPA, which provides for restitution to consumers and/or damages, in addition civil penalties of up to $25,000.

Why Do Not Spam lists are a bad idea

Respected spam fighters Spamhaus describe Remove.org as a scam run by spammers. Spamhaus has published a detailed critique of Spam removal lists describing them as "at best a scam and at worst a 'live address' confirmation system for the spammer".

We weren't aware of this critique when we wrote last Friday in only mildly sceptical terms about plans from Do Not Spam list firm Global Removal and spam filtering company DAIR Computer Systems to offer a reciprocal discount scheme.

We apologise for not being more critical.

Although backed by some members of Congress (eg. Senator Charles Schumer), we're increasingly coming to see the whole Do Not Spam list concept as fundamentally misconceived. In the fight against spam these lists probably do more harm than good, it would seem. ®

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