New spam laws are only a partial solution

Businesses spamming personal e-mail accounts will face a £5,000 fine under new laws being introduced on 11 December.

Businesses spamming personal e-mail accounts will face a £5,000 fine under new laws being introduced on 11 December.

But the fines will do little to stem the barrage of unsolicited e-mail sent to company e-mail addresses from firms operating outside the EU, a growing problem for UK businesses.

Under the new UK law, businesses sending unsolicited email will face a £5,000 penalty if convicted in court.

E-commerce minster Stephen Timms said, "These regulations will help combat the global nuisance of unsolicited e-mails and texts by enshrining in law rights that give consumers more say over who can use their personal details."

James Walsh, parliamentary and European advisor at the Institute of Directors, doubted the effectiveness of the legislation to stop spam. "There is a serious question mark over how practical it will be to enforce."

In particular, he said, it would be very difficult to track down spammers from overseas.

James Mulloch, a partner at law firm Osborne Clark, said businesses need full consent to send e-mail out to consumers and businesses, to avoid falling foul of the Data Protection Act.

"Businesses that belong to the Direct Marketing Association should also ensure they comply with its code of practice," he added. This prevents unsolicited mail from being sent to anyone who has registered a preference for not receiving such mail with the Direct Marketing Association. 

Keep it legal

  • Only send email marketing to people who have given their consent to receive such material

  • Amend privacy statement on your public web site to reflect changes to the law relating to the opt-in requirement

  • Consider signing up to a voluntary code of practice, such as that run by the Direct Marketing Association

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