Netherlands Issues Its First Fines Against Spammers

Dutch authorities have announced that country’s first fines against spammers, including one person and two companies who sent unsolicited e-mails and mobile telephone text messages.

This marks the first action against spammers since the Netherlands government agreed in May to officially ban unsolicited e-mail. The Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority, also known as Opta, the organization responsible for regulating spam in the Netherlands, issued the fines.

The largest fine, US$61,000, was levied against an individual who was involved in four spam campaigns. The second fine, totaling $34,000, was charged against a company called Groenendaal Uitgeverij for sending spam about financial software. A third fine, of $27,000, was levied against a company called Yellow Monday Institute for sending spam text messages on mobile phones.

Worldwide Problem

Spam is a worldwide problem, but European nations like the Netherlands are not among the regions with the worst reputations. The Netherlands doesn’t even register in the “dirty dozen” compiled by antivirus, anti-spam firm Sophos. As for nearby areas, 1.37 percent of spam comes out of France, 1.18 percent from Spain, 1.3 percent from the United Kingdom and 1.03 percent from Germany.

Meanwhile, North America, particularly the United States, continues to contribute the most to worldwide spam, with nearly 48 percent of all spam being sent from North American computers during 2004, according to Sophos.

“When we first reported on the top spamming countries back in February 2004, the USA had the excuse that the CAN-SPAM act had been in existence for a couple of months,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. “Almost a year and millions of spam messages later, it is quite evident that the CAN-SPAM legislation has made very little headway in damming the flood of spam.”

EU Legislation That Works

John Mozena, co-founder and vice president for the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (CAUCE), told the E-Commerce Times that one of the reasons there is so little spam coming out of European nations is because Europe has a legal structure in place to deal with spam that is superior to that in the U.S.

“Last year the European Union issued a privacy directive that required member nations to implement very strong anti-spam laws,” Mozena said. “While some of those laws aren’t perfect, regulators, law enforcement and even individuals have many more legal tools to use against spammers than Americans do.”

Some European countries are still trying to work out the kinks. The UK, for example, has a spam law that makes it illegal for a spammer to target an individual’s e-mail account, but lawful to target a business account. There is no standardization among European law yet, but Mozena said the basic tenet that spam is bad is entrenched in European law.

Unlimited Spam

There is also another reason why spam is not as prevalent in European countries, though. Only recently have European nations implemented a flat rate for unlimited Internet access, an all-important ingredient to the successful spammer.

“An economic requirement for profitable spamming is the ability to stay online as long as you want and pump out messages,” Mozena said. “So laws, along with that economic pressure, have also made spam much less likely to come out of Europe. We hope that the U.S. can look at the European legal models for examples of laws that actually work.”

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