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Spam anniversary

Spam anniversary
Anti-spam team to address global group

The Department of Internal Affairs Anti-Spam Compliance Unit has stamped its identity on the international scene in its first year of operation.

Two members of the five-strong team will talk about New Zealand's experience when they address the conference of the London Action Plan, the international spam enforcement network, in Wiesbaden, Germany, in October.

The unit was established a year ago after Parliament passed the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act to prohibit commercial electronic 'junk mail' and enable legal action to be taken against New Zealand-based spammers. The Act took effect on 5 September 2007.

The unit:

• Investigates complaints about spam and enforces a civil penalty regime

• Promotes, through education, responsible conduct by New Zealand businesses, Internet service providers and telecommunications carriers

• Co-operates with local and international enforcement agencies on spam and related e-crime initiatives.

Last December the Department, investigating an international spamming operation involving eight countries, executed search warrants on a Christchurch business. Court proceedings are under consideration and the action drew favourable comment from Spamhaus, an international spam monitoring agency, when a senior executive visited New Zealand earlier this year.

Anti Spam Compliance Unit manager, Joe Stewart, said InternetNZ and the New Zealand Marketing Association have been very supportive and the unit has established contacts with anti-spam and law enforcement agencies in the United States, Australia, England, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Finland and Hong Kong. It has also participated in several international anti-spam groupings.

In the 12 months since the Act took effect, the unit has received over 4000 complaints of which almost 950 turned out to be New Zealand-based spam. Most of the complaints were that people had not consented to receive commercial electronic messages or that the messages did not contain an unsubscribe facility. Some 73 complaints involved messages promoting sex-enhancing chemical products, of which 24 were identified as New Zealand-originated. None involved pornography.

To send a commercial electronic message requires:
• the recipient's consent
• the sender clearly identified and the sender's contact details
• a free unsubscribe facility.

"Apart from the Christchurch action, we have dealt with most complaints by persuading the New Zealand perpetrators to desist, update their consent records or include an 'unsubscribe' facility," Joe Stewart said. "In the odd case where this has not worked we have followed up with a formal warning.

"The law also provides for infringement notices and court action, with a maximum fine of $500,000 for an organisation or $200,000 for an individual. A 'spammer' could also be ordered to pay the victims compensation up to the amount of loss suffered and/or damages up to the amount of profit that was made as a result of sending the spam.

"For the future we are working with other enforcement agencies here and internationally to reduce the harm spam can cause. Under the nation's Digital Strategy released last week, one of the 'targets' is to ensure that households and individuals are protected from computer viruses and other malware and fraudulent ICT activity."

Complaints about spam can be lodged at: complaints.antispam.govt.nz


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