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Anti-spam organization criticizes EU proposal

September 6, 1999
Web posted at: 10:27 a.m. EDT (1427 GMT)

by Dorte Toft


(IDG) -- The European Commission will not succeed in protecting consumers against unwanted e-mail with rules proposed in Brussels, said Ray Everett-Church, a co-founder and counsel for the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail (CAUCE), a U.S. volunteer organization.

The proposed so-called "Opt-out" registers are likely to have little if any effect on the flood of e-mail promoting pornography, get-rich-quick scams and products, according to Everett-Church, who professionally works as chief privacy officer at the Internet company

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According to the proposal, all 15 member countries in the European Union will make a register available to consumers, in which they can register their preference not to receive unsolicited e-mail, and companies will be obliged to respect it.

If the rules, part of a revised framework for electronic commerce, are passed by the Council of Ministers later this year, all EU states will enact them.

The U.S. experience with opt-out registers -- whether targeted at limiting direct mail, telemarketing or spam -- is not encouraging, according to Everett-Church.

"Take e-mail. It makes very little economic sense for the companies to use time in order to take people out of their list, when the cost of sending an e-mail is almost nothing," said Everett-Church.

Also, a large part of spam is attributed to companies operating on the "fringes of legality," doing all they can to avoid being traced and made accountable, Everett-Church said. "They will never use such a register."

The only effective way of protecting the consumers is to ban spam, just like unsolicited advertisements via fax are banned in the U.S., said Everett-Church.

"Ignoring the ban costs a fine of between $500 to $1,500 per fax received, and that helped stop the practice," he said.

However, the European Parliament voted no to a proposal banning spam in May: the vote was 137 to 266.

In the U.S., about eight states have already passed laws limiting spam in various ways, and laws are pending in more than a dozen states, according to Everett-Church. He expects a federal law banning spam to be passed. "Several proposals are pending on Capitol Hill," he said.

Dorte Toft is a U.S. correspondent for the IDG News Service in Boston.

AT&T WorldNet to use Brightmail to block spam
August 27, 1999
Is e-mail the killer e-commerce app?
August 10, 1999
Washington tackles Internet law
July 30, 1999

Feds mull approaches to stop spam
(Federal Computer Week)
Kill spam dead!
(PC World Online)
Users look to ISPs to fight spam
(PC World Online)
Meet the spammers
The FTC's list of a dirty dozen spam scams
(The Industry Standard)
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Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail (CAUCE)
Europa, The EU's Web Site
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