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.

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