Monday, March 28, 2011

Update to eMarketers: Canada’s FISA Broader than US’s CAN-SPAM Act

Last late year, Canada enacted the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act (FISA).  The framework established by FISA is fundamentally different from the United States’s CAN-SPAM Act.  First, while CAN-SPAM applies only to commercial email, FISA applies to any form of electronic message sent for marketing purposes (referred to as a “Commercial Electronic Message,” or “CEM”), including: email; SMS; instant messaging; and social media/networking. U.S. regulations have not to this point targeted communications with customers across social media.

Second, and perhaps more significantly from the standpoint of most U.S. firms, FISA requires affirmative consent from a potential recipient of a message before marketers can send a CEM.  This feature of the law stands in sharp contrast to CAN-SPAM, which permits at least “one free shot” at a recipient, provided that the message itself is CAN-SPAM compliant (ie. the message includes opt-out instructions, clearly identifies the sender, identifies itself as commercial email, etc.).

Accordingly, U.S. companies now will need to differentiate their approach to marketing to Canadian customers from their approach to marketing to U.S. customers in order to ensure compliance with both the Canadian and U.S. statutes.  Commonly utilized techniques for acquiring contact information, such as list rental, if used to market to Canadian customers, now have the potential to expose marketers to a violation of FISA.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Illinois Governor Signs "Amazon" Affiliate Nexus Law

On March 10, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law HB 3659, the affiliate nexus bill passed by the legislature in January. Quinn's signing makes Illinois the fourth state (along with New York, Rhode Island, and North Carolina) to enact such a law. The Illinois bill provides that once an out-of-state Internet retailer realizes $10,000 in receipts from sales made to customers linked to the retailer's website from the websites of its Illinois affiliates, the retailer will be deemed to be a “retailer having or maintaining a place of business in this State” and be obligated to collect and remit tax on all of its sales to Illinois consumers.

In response, promptly informed its Illinois affiliates that it is terminating its relationships with them. Look for further developments in the coming days.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

DMA v. Huber Update: Huber Appeals to Tenth Circuit

As we reported in January, the Direct Marketing Association (the "DMA") recently won a landmark preliminary injunction in its lawsuit against the State of Colorado.  The preliminary injunction prohibits the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Revenue from enforcing Colorado’s new notice and reporting law, H.B. 10-1193, which would require out-of-state direct marketers and online sellers who do not collect Colorado sales and use taxes to inform Colorado purchasers of their obligation to self-report tax and to provide Colorado customers summaries of their purchases, and also would require sellers to report specific customer purchase information to the State.  As we wrote previously, the Court, in granting the preliminary injunction, found that the requirements of H.B. 10-1193 likely both violated the Commerce Clause and would cause irreparable harm to out-of-state retailers if enforced

On February 25, the Defendant filed an interlocutory appeal of the District Court’s order granting the preliminary injunction, seeking review of the injunction by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.  It will likely be six to nine months before the Tenth Circuit issues its ruling in the matter, but we will keep you updated as developments arise.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Additional States Introduce Affiliate-Nexus Legislation

On March 2, an Internet-affiliate nexus bill was introduced in the Arkansas State Senate (SB 738). Arkansas joins Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont, as the thirteenth state this legislative season to consider such a measure. Nearly all of the bills -- with the exception of Illinois’s HB 3659, which was passed by the Illinois legislature and is now awaiting signature or veto by Governor Quinn, and Connecticut’s SB 5545 -- are patterned directly upon the New York affiliate nexus law enacted in 2008 and challenged in court, so far unsuccessfully, by In other words, 11 of the 13 proposed laws create a rebuttable presumption that an out-of-state Internet retailer is obligated to collect and remit the state’s sales and use taxes if the retailer enters into an agreement with an in-state resident (an “affiliate”) pursuant to which the affiliate places a link from the affiliate’s website to the retailer’s site, and the retailer realizes at least $10,000 in sales to customers referred to it by the affiliate’s links. The presumption can be negated by proof that the in-state affiliates did not engage in any in-state solicitation on behalf of the retailer.

In its November 2010 ruling, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court found that the ability of a retailer to rebut the presumption of solicitation was an important factor in determining that the New York law is not unconstitutional on its face. The Court, however, remanded the case for further proceedings on the issue of whether the law violates the Commerce Clause and Due Process Clause as applied to specifically to Amazon. As the ongoing proceedings in the New York case make clear, the constitutionality of such “New York-style” affiliate-nexus legislation is far from resolved.

At the same time, it is worth noting that the Illinois and Connecticut bills differ from the New York law in that neither bill provides that the presumption that a retailer must collect sales and use tax as a result of having in-state Internet affiliates may be rebutted. Imposing an irrebuttable presumption of nexus is highly suspect under both the Commerce Clause and Due Process Clause. Without a rebuttable presumption in place to protect retailers, Illinois and Connecticut would subject Internet retailers to burdensome state tax collection obligations when the retailers are effectively doing nothing more than advertising. For that reason, the progress of each of these bills bears watching. Stay tuned.