Antispam bill heard in S'pore parliament

update After two rounds of public consultation, Spam Control Bill is finally read in parliament. If passed, marketers will have to label unsolicited e-mail and SMS messages as advertisements.

update SINGAPORE--The government has moved one step closer to passing the country's Spam Control Bill, which calls for marketers to tag unsolicited e-mail and SMS messages as advertisements.

First drafted in May 2004, and after two rounds of public consultation, the antispam law was finally heard during a parliament sitting Monday.

Under the new bill, marketers will be required to clearly label unsolicited e-mail and SMS (short messaging service) messages with the letters "ADV" and provide recipients with an opt-out option.

Marketers will also have to list legitimate contact details as means for a consumer to seek redress if he finds the content misleading. Should consumers choose not to receive further messages, marketers will have to comply within 10 days.

Errant marketers can be taken to court by consumers, and if found guilty, recalcitrant spammers can be charged up to S$25 (US$16.3) per message but the total penalty cannot exceed S$1 million (US$651,700).

If enacted, the bill will put Singapore in the same league as countries such as the United States, China, Australia and the United Kingdom, which have introduced antispam laws.

But with the amount of spam that continues to plague corporate inboxes today, some have questioned the effectiveness of antispam laws. According to a ZDNet Asia poll conducted in October 2005, only 10.8 percent of respondents believed that antispam legislation would eradicate the problem.

In an article published after the Singapore government called for a second round of consultation, lawyer Siew Kum Hong also identified key areas which he said the draft bill has yet to address. For example, questions remain whether marketers can send unsolicited messages to persons with whom they have a pre-existing relationship.

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