Officials from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the British Office of Fair Trading (OFT) hosted the first international meeting of spam enforcement agencies today in London.
The conference, which brought together agencies from more than 20 countries, focused on consumer protection, data protection and telecommunications agencies to promote cross-border cooperation on spam and spam-related problems, such as online fraud and computer viruses.
"This gathering is unique not only because it is the first international meeting of spam enforcers, but also because our participants represent diverse organizations," FTC Chairman Deborah Majoras said in her prepared opening remarks.
Majoras added that all the countries attending the conference were united in their efforts to "stop deceptive and fraudulent spam from flooding our e-mail boxes, threatening our data security, and undermining e-mail's effectiveness as a tool for commerce and communication."
John Vickers, chairman of the OFT, said global cooperation on network security, law enforcement and heightened consumer awareness is needed to help shield Internet users from spam. He added that more than 80 percent of spam received by United Kingdom Internet users originates from overseas, making cross-border collaboration on enforcement essential.
"International collaboration by enforcement agencies, the efforts of the computer and communications industries, and smart consumers at home -- who take steps to protect themselves -- are all needed to combat the Internet scammers," Vickers said in his prepared reports.
The conference included sessions on comparing the enforcement powers of different government agencies, effective collection of evidence and cooperation with the private sector on anti-spam initiatives. Sessions were also held for devising a practical framework for international law enforcement through bilateral and multilateral agreements among enforcement agencies.
"The task requires us to transcend traditional organizational boundaries. Spam respects no frontiers, so the first and obvious requirement is effective international collaboration to combat it," Vickers said.
Majoras pointed to the actions last week by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which agreed to a $25,000 settlement from a Florida-based company accused of sending unsolicited bulk e-mail to Massachusetts' consumers. DC Enterprises and William C. Carson of Weston, Fla., the main principal of the company, was accused of violating both state laws and the new national CAN SPAM Act.
Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said DC and Carson also violated state and national anti-spam laws by failing to provide an opt-out provision, identifying the e-mail as advertisements and using a non-functioning sender address. According to the settlement, the spam sent by DC Enterprises promoted low-interest loans.
"Internet marketers should note that Massachusetts takes seriously federal and state laws meant to protect against unwanted and misleading e-mails," Reilly said in a statement. "These messages are the type of unwanted and annoying solicitations that have become the scourge of Internet users and threaten the credibility of companies using e-mail for legitimate purposes."