RealTime IT News

Spain Slams Spam With New Law

MADRID -- In a move that pits commercial e-mail proponents against Net user groups, Spain's government has drafted a law meant to make spam a thing of the past.

Following a tug-o-war between proponents of privacy and those of unfettered advertising, Baudilio Tome, Secretary of State for Telecommunications and the Information Society, announced this week the final draft of the Information Society Services and Electronic Commerce Law -- which clearly bans unsolicited commercial e-mail.

European Union directives allow individual member states to develop their own regulations in this area, and Spain originally considered either requiring commercial e-mail senders to put the warning "Advertising" in their subject headings, or allowing netizens to subscribe to "voluntary exclusion lists." In the end, the government opted for an outright ban.

The argument is that, since netizens are flipping the bill (paying for bandwidth and the cost of the local phone call), they reserve the right to proactively seek out the advertising that interests them.

Both the Spanish Internet Users' Association (AUI) and the Association of Internauts praised the proposed law as a step in the right direction.

"In the initial draft there were comments about the necessity of taking measures against 'spam,' but without really saying what measures, which prompted [the AUI] to request that this phenomenon be kept in mind and that unsolicited e-mails be expressly prohibited -- just as European directives suggest," said AUI president Miguel Perez.

After a second version of the text, a series of measures were proposed, though these were interpreted as a license to spam. When user groups came together in a unanimous anti-spam front, their position prevailed in the final version, Perez said.

Nonetheless, e-commerce interests say previous drafts of the law were already restrictive enough. According to the Spanish Electronic Commerce Association (AECE), the proposed legislation will put Spanish companies at a disadvantage with respect to foreign e-mail solicitors and will force Spanish e-marketers to set up their mailing activities from abroad.

The AECE will continue to lobby Spanish lawmakers prior to the law's projected parliamentary debate this summer, proposing that a previous draft of the law be approved, AECE president Fernando Pardo told Estrella Digital.

According to Noticias Intercom, the average Spanish net user has 1.8 e-mail accounts and receives 11 messages per week--of which 2.2 are considered "junk mail." While 64 percent of users claim to be bothered by such unsolicited messages, only 14 percent use any kind of anti-spam filter. Only 30 percent ask to be removed from lists, though 84 percent erase the messages without reading them.