Ahern’s gloves are off in effort to ‘can the spam’

19 Feb 2004

Communications Minister Dermot Ahern TD has called for international action over soaring levels of spam as well as unsolicited text messages. He raised the issue with a high-powered Congressional delegation from the US that has agreed to work closely with Ireland in combating spam.

The team from the US Congress was led by Congressman Bob Goodlatte, co-chairman of the Congressional Internet Caucus and the Chairman of the House of Representatives High Technology Working Group. The delegation also included Congressman Wally Herger, Jim Walsh and Nathan Deal.

Addressing the delegation, Ahern said that there was an urgent need for greater international co-operation between countries to end what he described as the scourge of spam in a way that was business-friendly, but effective.

The Congressional delegation and representatives from the Irish Government agreed to develop closer links in combating spam in an environment that would not hinder business development and growth. The development of broadband in schools was also raised at the meeting.

Minister Ahern commented: “Tougher sanctions against spam are being developed and implemented on both sides of the Atlantic. One country trying to tackle spam in isolation is fairly pointless. We need to implement and co-ordinate an international response and the US has shown a strong lead in this area.”

“Today’s meeting was very constructive and I was in a position to inform the Congressional group of the efforts being made in Ireland to tackle the problem. They also brought me up to date on the current position in the United States.”

The Minister recently adopted the EU Electronic Communications Networks and Services and Data Protection and Privacy Regulations 2003, which provide for fines of €3,000 for each spam message.

Restrictions on unsolicited direct marketing by telephone, fax, automated calling systems, email, SMS and MMS are provided for under the legislation. The Regulations also introduced a “ban on spam” originating in the EU. Spam (unsolicited e-mail marketing) sent to individuals, with a limited exception (covering existing customer relationships) is only allowed with prior consent under the legislation.

By John Kennedy