Companies could win spam protection

The scope of the European anti-spam legislation could soon be widened to give companies the same legal protection against UK spammers as consumers.

The opt-in principle included in the privacy and electronic communications regulations makes it illegal for UK companies to send unsolicited marketing emails unless there has been prior consent.

If someone is happy to receive unsolicited emails they can request it by opting-in. But under the regulations, introduced on 11 December, this applies only to consumers.

Currently the only way companies can stop direct marketing emails is to invoke the Data Protection Act.

Phil Jones, assistant commissioner in the Information Commissioner’s Office, is optimistic that this will be reviewed by the Department of Trade and Industry.

By May, the DTI should have amended the Privacy and Electronic Communications regulations to allow companies to sign up for the Telephone Preference Service, previously limited to consumers.

This will allows companies to add their phone numbers to a list of numbers that direct marketers are not allowed to call.

The DTI has always said it would monitor spam, and with complaints from companies on the rise, Jones said it would be logical to include protection for businesses.

‘I am not guaranteeing it will be reviewed and am expressing a personal opinion. But it is quite likely from what I have heard and I am confident. The DTI is under a lot of pressure to review this.’

He added: ‘You can’t distinguish about who pays the [email] bill and most of our complaints about spam are from companies.’

He said the Information Commissioner is also keen for improvements to be made to its ‘slow and cumbersome’ enforcement powers.

‘This will be reviewed as the DTI is actively looking at this. Again I can’t give guarantees that procedures will be changed, but I am reasonably optimistic,’ he said.

A spokesman for the DTI said the directive was under review: ‘There are various things we will be looking at,’ he said.

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