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OPTA: EUR 75.000 fine for spammer

The Commission of OPTA, the Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority in the Netherlands has imposed a fine of EUR 75.000 on a Dutch spammer. This private individual sent unsolicited electronic messages to consumers to promote erection enhancement pills, pornographic websites, sex products and such. This is the largest fine which OPTA has imposed for a contravention of the prohibition against spam.

OPTA took a number of factors into consideration when determining the amount of the fine. First of all, the spam authority considered the number of spam messages involved. This person had sent a minimum of nine billion spam messages. In addition, he had earned a minimum of USD 52.000 (more than EUR 40.000) through this spam. Anotheraggravating factor was that this person used hundreds of so-called ‘proxies’. The latter are computers of unsuspecting end users, which were used as staging bases for sending spam. In this way the spammer managed to conceal his real identity.

In the course of its investigations, OPTA used information provided by Microsoft. “It is a good sign that businesses such as Microsoft are taking responsibility in relation to internet security,” says the OPTA chairman, Chris Fonteijn. “If spam is to be eliminated effectively, it is important for the public and private sectors to work together.”

Sending unsolicited e-mail (advertising or otherwise) to private individuals has been prohibited in the Netherlands since May 19th 2004. The spammer used lists of e-mail addresses, whose origin is unknown. These lists also contained the e-mail addresses of private individuals. So-called ‘dictionary attacks’ were also launched. This refers to e-mail addresses which are generated using random combinations of numbers and letters. Section 11.7 of the Telecommunications Act stipulates that the sender must have the recipient’s consent before sending advertising material by e-mail. The relevant e-mail message must also reveal the sender’s identity and specify where the recipient can unsubscribe from receiving future e-mail messages.

Since the prohibition of spam has come into effect, OPTA has put a special Dutch website – – into service, which contains information about this prohibition and how to submit complaints about spam. Such complaints constitute an important source of information for OPTA’s investigations. More than 20,000 complaints have been received through this site to date.