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First year’s fight against spam yields positive results: Growing collaboration with American regulator

The Commission of OPTA, the Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority, is satisfied with the results of its efforts to combat spam. Jens Arnbak, the OPTA Commission Chairman, says that ‘the results of our first year of fighting spam are positive, as is the growing international collaboration in this field’. Various independent organisations have determined that the quantity of spam emanating from the Netherlands has diminished significantly in recent years. OPTA has been charged with tackling unsolicited messages since the new telecommunications legislation came into force on 19 May 2004.

OPTA’s special website,, has been visited 48,168 times in the past year. A total of 7,114 complaints have been lodged. The bulk of them – 5,996 complaints – concerned e-mail spam mainly concerning mortgages, medicines, erection enhancement pills, office requisites, DVD’s and counterfeit branded watches. SMS spam constituted the second largest category with 526 complaints being received, mainly in relation to horoscope messages, jokes and ringtones. Spam by fax led to the receipt of 235 complaints.

Partly in response to the complaints that were submitted, OPTA issued four fines and 21 warnings. Of a total of 47 investigations that were launched, seven were completed without the imposition of any sanctions. The other cases are still current or have been handed over to our foreign sister organisations.

Spam is typically an international phenomenon. OPTA therefore increasingly collaborates with foreign regulatory authorities, such as the American Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Recently we have been working on an educational campaign against the use of zombie computers. The latter are PCs belonging to ordinary consumers which spammers have broken into and have then used to send spam messages. In this way the spam sender’s identity remains concealed, while the owner of the PC is not aware that his computer is being misused. Acting on the FTC’s initiative, Internet service providers in more than 20 countries were sent a letter to draw their attention to the problem and calling on them to adopt measures (technical and otherwise) to tackle zombie computers and to actively provide their customers with proper information that will enable them to protect their PCs better.

Hugh Stevenson, the associate director of the FTC’s international consumer protection department says, ‘We greatly appreciate OPTA’s contribution to this campaign. It is a fine example of the growing collaboration between the FTC and OPTA in the fight against spam.’