OPTA: Fine of EUR 1 million for distributing undesired software
22 million computers infected with DollarRevenue software The OPTA Commission has imposed a fine totalling EUR 1 million on three Dutch enterprises and their two directors, because they installed software on more than 22 million computers belonging to Internet users in the Netherlands and elsewhere. By unlawfully installing this so-called adware and spyware these small enterprises distributed advertising material and obtained access to details of Internet users. This is the first time that OPTA has acted to impose fines on distributors of unsolicited and undesirable software. The three companies operated together under the name, DollarRevenue. Using misleading files, amongst other things, Internet users were led to believe that they were about to download apparently innocent files, whereas they actually contained DollarRevenue software. They also used botnets, thereby installing files without user intervention. Each day 60,000 installations occurred on average. A total of more than 450 million program files were illegally placed on 22 million computers. These program files unleashed a flood of popup windows containing advertisements. Unsolicited search toolbars were also installed. They were nested in the toolbars of Windows XP and Microsoft Internet Explorer, where they displayed alternative search results. Complaints Hundreds of complaints appeared on the Internet about DollarRevenue software. They mentioned that people did not know how the software came to be on their computer nor how they should remove it. This is because the software did not include an uninstall function and could only be removed with expert assistance. DollarRevenue was amongst the top ten international distributors of spyware. Last summer OPTA imposed a conditional penalty on the two directors to ensure that these illegal activities were permanently halted. Fine The Universal Service and End Users Decree [Besluit universele dienstverlening en eindgebruikers], is based on the Telecommunications Act [Telecommunicatiewet] and is designed to promote safe Internet usage and to protect the privacy of Internet users. The enterprises and their directors deliberately contravened provisions of this decree for a year and this produced large-scale material and immaterial damage. For this reason fines totalling EUR 1 million were imposed on both the enterprises and their directors. OPTA is of the opinion that these fines will have a sufficiently punitive and deterrent effect to deter these companies and anyone else from contravening the law (again).The persons can object against this decision, therefore the judge has not yet ruled on the penalty by OPTA.