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Spam & spyware

Danish company fined EUR 54.000 for fax-spamming

28 January, 2004

The Danish Maritime and Commercial court last week convicted the Danish mobile phone company Aircom for spamming. The company has to pay a fine of EUR 54.000 (400.000 DKK) for sending out unsolicited commercial faxes. In Denmark, this is the largest fine issued up till now for spamming.

In court, Aircom admitted to have sent between 7.650 and 15.300 unsolicited faxes to smaller companies. The Danish Consumer Ombudsman had already asked the company a year before to stop these illegal marketing practices, but they didn't. This was seen by the Court as an aggravating circumstance in the case.

The company was convicted for violating section 6a of the Danish Marketing Practices Act (Markedsfoeringsloven), which prohibits unsolicited commercial e-mails or faxes. The case is the second principle spam case in Denmark within a year.

French study warns against spam via Plaxo

19 November, 2003

The ad-hoc French organisation 'halte au spam' (stop spam) organised a successful forum on spam in Paris on 3 November. The forum was attended by more than 200 people, including 25 journalists. During the forum an interesting new study was presented about the privacy-dangers of social internet-tools like Plaxo. Plaxo's service invites you to upload your Outlook address book to a central server. The server then sends mails to everybody asking them to update their information.

These kinds of services are very successful, thanks to being free and using viral marketing schemes, but concerns from anti-spam devotees seem justified. For example, the marketing approach is not at all in accordance with the French privacy authority's opinion on sponsorship-based data collection.

New anti-spam legislation in NL and Austria

5 November, 2003

On the 31st of October, the European Directive on Privacy in electronic communications (2002/58/EC) went into force. Only a minority of countries has implemented the directive in time, but any European citizen can now directly appeal to the directive in their national courts.

Most recently, the Dutch Lower House accepted the spam-ban on 4 November, voting unanimously for the new Telecommunication Law. Attempts from a social-democrat member of parliament to introduce penal sanctions for spamming and to extend the spam-ban to recipients on the workfloor failed, in spite of much anti-spam rhetoric from the governing liberal and christian-democrat parties.

First decision against spam in Poland

22 October, 2003

The Polish agency for Competition and Consumer Protection recently for the first time condoned a spammer. According to the agency, the Firm Edukacyjna Impuls Plus from the city of Grudziadz had violated the Provision of Electronic Services Bill by sending unsolicited commercial mail.

Expert meeting on spam in Brussels

22 October, 2003

With only a few days to go before the 31 October deadline for the transposition of the new Directive for Privacy and Electronic Communications, on 13 October the Commission organised a public workshop about spam. More than 200 public and private stake-holders attended, ranging from government representatives to consumer & civil rights groups and from data protection authorities to spokespersons for both internet and mobile telephony companies.

UK politicians call for more anti-spam measures

8 October, 2003

In the UK an influential group of Members of Parliament has called for more anti-spam measures. In a report published last Monday, the MPs ask for greater enforcement powers for the government watchdog responsible for tackling spam, the information commissioner. The All Parliament Internet Group is also urging the Department of Trade and Industry to ban unsolicited e-mails sent to business addresses, not just to private ones. To be able to enforce the ban, the Department should encourage a 'super complaints' system. This would allow outside organisations to act on behalf of people with spam complaints to ensure the major culprits are stopped.

The chairman of the group, MP Derek Wyatt urged for more consistent global legislation and cooperation in tackling spam.

First ruling under new UK anti-spam legislation

25 September, 2003

On 11 December 2003 new anti-spam legislation in the UK will come into force, implementing the European Directive on privacy in the telecommunications sector (2002/58/EC). In the UK, spammers risk a fine of 7.196 EUR (5.000 GBP) from a magistrates court or even an unlimited penalty from a jury. Though a criminal offence, spammers in the UK do not risk a prison sentence.

In a test case, on 10 September the UK's Advertising Standards Authority ruled that e-mail marketers must obtain explicit consent from the targets of advertising, even when they use a list of addresses purchased in good faith. The Authority revamped its Code of Practice in March 2003, with new requirements for consent before marketing by e-mail.

Fines and prison sentence for Italian spammers

10 September, 2003

Italy is introducing tough fines and prison sentences against spammers. Senders of unsolicited junk e-mails can expect fines up to a maximum of 90.000 euros and 3 years in prison.

The penalties go far beyond those in any other European country. All EU member states will have to outlaw spam by 31 October 2003 as a result of European directive 2002/58/EC. From that date on the sending of unsolicited bulk email is only allowed after prior consent of the receiver. The European directive does not specify penalties.

The Italian data protection authority said that the high penalties apply to senders that operate with the aim of making a profit.

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