Reply-To: Ruairi Newman <bofh at tech-mad.org>
X-Operating-System: Linux 2.4.3-20mdk
FYI: the text of a mail I received from UK MEP Michael Cashman today. For
context on this read the "Europe chickens out of outlawing spam" thread on
the list on 12th July.
----- Forwarded message from Michael Cashman <mcashman at europarl.eu.int> -----
From: "Michael Cashman" <mcashman at europarl.eu.int>
Date: Wed, 18 Jul 2001 12:50:34 +0200
To: <contact at michael-cashman-mep.new.labour.org.uk>
Subject: Unsolicited commercial email
X-Mailer: Novell GroupWise Internet Agent 220.127.116.11
** High Priority **
Thank you for your email regarding the recent European Parliamentary draft report by Marco Cappato on the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector, and my amendment concerning unsolicited commercial email (UCE) which was adopted by the European Parliamentary Committee on Citizens Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs. This report (as amended) will now be voted by the Parliament as a whole at its plenary session in Strasbourg in September.
The E-commerce Directive, passed by the European Parliament and the Council with an implementation deadline of January 2002, gives Member States the choice between opt-in and opt-out for unsolicited commercial e-mail, with additional safeguards for consumers in opt-in Member States. The current Commission proposal (unamended) is therefore incompatible with this existing Directive. The Council and the Parliament asked the Commission, in the context of that Directive, to submit a report by the end of 2003 on opt-in/opt-out for unsolicited commercial email, and other issues, to decide whether additional measures are needed in the internal market context. The coherent approach is for Council and Parliament to stick to this position and wait for experience of the E-commerce Directive to evolve, before considering the Commission report and looking at these issues in the wider context.
The Internet is Global, so an opt-in in Europe would not protect European consumers from spam. By no means all UCE is spam - much is sent as part of responsible marketing campaigns and is of interest/use to the receiver. Spam should be differentiated from responsible unsolicited commercial e-mail, which provides customers with potentially useful information. The majority of spam - pornographic and other distasteful messages - comes from outside the European Union, and its users do not respect either opt-in or opt-out systems. The experience in opt-in countries - such as Finland - is that this spam just keeps on coming, while potentially useful emails from responsible and law-abiding European companies are blocked. Spam is very often based on the use of "harvested" e-mail addresses obtained without the addressee's knowledge or consent - this is already illegal under the framework data protection directive so we should concentrate on enforcing existing laws.
Harmonised opt-in rules disadvantage European companies. Companies in the United States, Japan and elsewhere would still be able to send commercial email to European consumers using the global internet. Therefore, why should the EU deprive European companies of the right to do the same? We should be helping European e-commerce companies to become competitive, not erecting further barriers to their expansion by means of competitive disadvantages. Responsible commercial email of this type is particularly useful to small European companies. A harmonised opt-in would favour large, predominantly American ecommerce companies, who can afford expensive media or billboard advertising campaigns.
E-mail is the easiest form of communication from which to opt out. Recipients need only press reply and type "unsubscribe". We could legislate that opt-outs need to be as easy as that, as the Parliament committee has tried to do. A consumer who receives unsolicited emails having opted-out can easily point to this opt-out, and his inclusion on an opt-out register, to challenge the sender. It is far more difficult for the consumer to prove that he has never "opted-in" at any time in the past. Alternatively, customers can use filters to ensure that they never even receive unsolicited commercial email from troublesome companies, who would obey neither opt out nor opt-in.
Michael Cashman MEP
----- End forwarded message -----
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