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Georgia utility complains about e-mail solicitations


March 26, 2001

An Atlanta-based electric utility complained last week that some of its customers in Georgia have been receiving e-mail solicitations from a marketing services firm that could be misconstrued as coming from the utility company itself.

Georgia Power, a unit of energy conglomerate Southern Co., said Friday that the messages imply that the utility company is requesting permission to contact customers via e-mail. The solicitations are being sent from an e-mail address listed as Webnetlocation.com and state that they're from "your local Power company," Georgia Power said.

The messages ask for permission to send "offers and services announcements directly from your source of Power to your home or business," according to a copy that Georgia Power said it had received from customers as well as from its own employees who also had received the solicitation.

That "gives customers the false impression that the message is from a local utility like Georgia Power," said David Bucker, e-business coordination manager at Southern, in a statement. Georgia Power has operations in all but six of Georgia's 159 counties and serves a total of 1.8 million customers.

Webnetlocation.com is an Internet domain name that a company called IQ Point Marketing Corp. uses to send and receive e-mail messages for clients on a permission-requested basis. On its Web site, IQ Point says all of the solicitations it transmits are sent for the purpose of "compiling a list of e-mail addresses that belongs exclusively to the client" that's paying for the campaign.

No other companies are given rights to use the lists, according to the Web site, and IQ Point has set up a link for people who want to remove their names from all of its lists. Company CEO Jeff White didn't respond to e-mail inquiries about the solicitations sent to Georgia Power customers, and IQ Point's location couldn't be determined.

A Georgia Power spokesman said the utility firm doesn't know the identity of the power company that IQ Point is representing. The electricity market in Georgia has been deregulated, opening up possible competition to utilities such as Georgia Power. The utility is investigating the matter and may report it to enforcement authorities, the spokesman said.

By LINDA ROSENCRANCE, Copyright © 2001 Computerworld


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