Telecoms reform tabled as EU plots spam clampdown
Italy praised and UK shamed over enforcement
The European Commission is calling on tougher action to fight spammers and protect online privacy.
A Commission-funded study found that enforcement action against junk mailers across the EU is inconsistent. It wants to see spam laws tightened up, alongside "clearer and more consistent enforcement rules", funds to support national privacy watchdogs and better cross-border cooperation.
Brussels securitycrats also want to see spammers and spyware slingers
dragged into market squares, put in stocks and pelted with rotten vegetables to face tougher sanctions.
"Although since 2002, European law has prohibited spam and spyware, on average 65 per cent of EU citizens are still affected by spam on a regular basis," said Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for information society and media. "We need to step up our fight against spammers and make sure that the EU adopts legislation that provides for strong civil and criminal sanctions against spammers. I call on EU countries to reinforce their national efforts to fight on-line privacy threats such as spam, spyware and malicious software."
An EU-funded study, published on Thursday, included an analysis of more than 140 enforcement cases from 22 Member States, and demonstrated big differences between in spam enforcement. The largest numbers of cases were reported in Spain (39), Slovakia (39) and Romania (20). The highest fines were imposed in the Netherlands (€1,000,000), Italy (€570,000) and Spain (€30,000). By contrast, convicted spammers in countries such as Romania, Ireland, and Latvia received paltry fines ranging from hundreds to several thousand Euros.
From the point when national anti-spam laws were on the drawing board it was clear that Italy and The Netherlands, for example, had decent enforcement regimes while the UK's proposals had been watered down by direct marketing lobbyists. Experts like Spamhaus were ignored, and the UK ended up with a law that didn't apply to spam messages sent to business email addresses and existed without adequate enforcement.
The EU release lists the number of enforcement actions across 14 European countries. Britain doesn't merit a mention because there's nothing to report on spam prosecutions.
UK spammers have been prosecuted for other crimes carried out while spamming, but not for the act of simply sending out junk mail. For example, Peter Francis-Macrae - reputedly the UK's biggest spammer - was jailed for six years back in 2006 after he was convicted on a variety of charges, ranging from fraud and blackmail to making threats to kill.
The battle against online threats is assisted by a combination of prevention, enforcement and raising public awareness. Regulators have the key role of coordinating efforts across borders and stimulating cooperation between public and private organisations.
The EU study found the level of cooperation differed markedly between different EU countries. Cooperation agreements exist in Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Romania and the UK, while Luxembourg and Malta, for example, rely on informal ties.
Reform of the EU's telecoms rules proposed by the Commission (under consideration by the European Parliament and the Council) aims to tighten up enforcement of privacy rules. According to these rules, "penalties for breaking national laws on online privacy should be effective, proportionate and dissuasive". Providing the rules pass, EU countries would also be obliged to allocate adequate resources to national enforcement authorities. The new rules also entitle ISPs to take legal action against spammers that abuse their networks.
Separately, the European Commission is negotiating an agreement with the US on cross border cooperation for the enforcement of consumer protection laws. Spam enforcement would form part of this agreement and is important, because industry figures cited by the EU suggest one in six spam emails are sent from the US.
spam phone calls
@john loader: "Not the ones the TPS can stop" - just which are those?
I've been registered with TPS for years and I still get calls from "reputable" UK companies including what I believe is a BT subsidiary. And Npower last week. TPS complaints are handled by a marketing industry body. I got info using the FOI act from the Information Commissioner. Nobody has ever been fined (penalty is up to £5000 per offending call made). Persistent offenders just get a "please stop calling TPS numbers" letter.
Businesses are more important to Government than individuals, they generate more tax revenue and party donations.
I think our best chance is if there were a 'phone company who offered a spam call blocking service with a blacklist of "bad" numbers. Even blocking "number withheld" calls has stopped working, the callers are currently using numbers consisting of all zeros and I'm sure they'll be working on how to "fake" the caller ID - possibly selecting the numbers to use from the TPS list.
Spam will keep getting worse until the businesses that support it through gross negligence are made to pay. As far as I can tell, there's *nobody home* at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or abuse@any telecom in Turkey. People act as if spam falls mysteriously from the sky. Ridiculous. Spam persists because transnationals starting with Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft *support* it.
What about spam phone calls?
Not the ones the TPS can stop but those International ones selling shares or telling you you've won a cruise or worse the silent ones. I find answering them in German or French is fun. But this is a spin off of VoIP hwere it is impossible to stop the perpetrators who are now causing real grief to vulnerable people. Come on EU talk to the US and Indian governments and get a clamp down on them as most calls seem to originate from those places