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Last Updated: Monday, 6 October, 2003, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Spam watchdog 'needs more bite'
Junk e-mails
Spam said to make up half of all e-mails sent
The government watchdog responsible for tackling spam needs greater powers, an influential group of MPs has said.

A report by the All Party Parliamentary Internet Group said the Information Commissioner should be given more enforcement powers and resources to regulate spam and deal with complaints.

It also recommended unsolicited e-mails sent to business addresses, not just private ones should be banned.

From December, UK companies face a 5,000 fine if they send junk messages to individuals unless they are already a customer or have given their permission.

More powers

The MPs spent the summer examining ways to stop spam messages, which are estimated to account for half of all e-mails sent.

Derek Wyatt MP, the group's chairman, urged for more consistent global legislation and cooperation in tackling spam, which makes up around 10 billion e-mails every day.

If all the report's recommendations were implemented then our constituents could expect to see a significant reduction in the amount of spam they receive
Richard Allan, MP
"It is essential that co-ordinated global action be taken against spam", he said.

"I hope that this report can help build international support for both legislative and technical measures to deal with spam."

Since the UK's new law banning unsolicited e-mails was announced, it has been criticised for lacking bite and being hard to enforce.

In their report, the group added its voice to those who said it was a mistake not to include e-mails to business addresses in the spam ban.

It recommended there be a clearer distinction between what counts as a personal e-mail address and a business one.

It also concurred that the body charged with enforcing the law, the Information Commissioner, should be given more power and resources to follow-up and catch spammers.

HAVE YOUR SAY
It will have zero effect on the vast majority of spammers who care little about the law
Mebs, London

The MPs warned that waiting for an enforcement notice to be breached before the Information Commissioner could fine spammers would just be a green light for them to continue e-mailing until they were caught.

They said responsibilities for tracking down spammers should be shared among other agencies when illegal activity may be involved, including the police and Trading Standards.

Best practice

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should also 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.

"If all the report's recommendations were implemented then our constituents could expect to see a significant reduction in the amount of spam they receive," said Richard Allan MP, vice-chairman of the group.

Net service providers have also been called upon to produce best practice guidelines on how avoid spam.

The MPs said service providers should also develop more effective ways of monitoring and identifying the biggest spammers to help the IC enforce its regulatory powers.

The group will now take its recommendations to the UK and US Governments.




SEE ALSO:
Anti-spam laws 'lack bite'
23 Sep 03  |  Technology
UK bans spam messages
18 Sep 03  |  Technology
Virus writers turn to spam
30 Jul 03  |  Technology
EU businesses count spam costs
15 Jul 03  |  Business
Spam peddlers hijack computers
01 Jul 03  |  Technology
Spam virus 'hijacks' computers
13 Jun 03  |  Technology
Spammers and virus writers unite
30 Apr 03  |  Technology
Virus mimics Microsoft e-mail
19 May 03  |  Technology
How to spot and stop spam
26 May 03  |  Technology


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