Australia's anti-spam watchdog has lauded
the effectiveness of the Spam Act 2003, but warned international
efforts and moves to combat the "fusion of spam, fraud and
cybercrime" must be stepped up.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said
that since the Act came into operation in April 2004, the
proportion of global spam coming out of Australia had "fallen
dramatically" and now sat at less than one percent.
The Act's effectiveness meant "there does not appear to be any
need or justification for significantly amending the legislation,
as the current legislative regime is adequate to control and
reduce spam emanating from Australia".
Efforts should now focus largely on encouraging countries that
do not yet regulate spam to tackle the problem with legislation,
the ACMA said.
The ACMA made its comments in a submission -- posted on a
Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts
Web page on Friday afternoon -- to a scheduled review of the Act
by the responsible Minister, Senator Helen Coonan.
The government committed to the review and issued a discussion
paper on 15 December last year. Sixty-four parties made
submissions, to be considered in a report to be tabled in federal
parliament this year.
"International anti-spam organisations report that several
known global spammers formerly based in Australia have ceased
operating or moved their operations out of the jurisdiction and
that Australia has dropped from 10th to 23rd on the list of
spamming nations," the ACMA said.
The ACMA said its anti-spam efforts had led it to advise about
500 organisations to amend their practices, issue nine formal
warnings, give infringement notices to five businesses and accept
court-enforceable undertakings from four businesses.
The organisation had also initiated proceedings in the Federal
Court in Perth against Clarity1 Pty Ltd and its sole director
Wayne Robert Mansfield, alleging the organisation had sent out at
least 56 million unsolicited commercial e-mails since the Act
came into force. The case kicked off in Perth on 3 March.
The ACMA said minor gaps in existing legislation that needed
to be dealt with include:
- Several specific practices of professional spammers that
need to be prohibited.
- The ACMA's ability to provide evidence in international
- "Several areas of remaining uncertainty for responsible
business in the areas of 'consent' and SMS marketing".
Specific techniques used by professional spammers that needed
to be prohibited included the use of misleading or deceptive
e-mail headers, subject lines or sender fields and commercial
e-mail relayed via botnets, the ACMA said.
It also said future funding from the government should be
sufficient to allow its officers to respond to the convergence of
spam, fraud and cybercrime. The ACMA should also continue to work
with bodies such as the Australian High Tech Crime Centre (AHTCC)
and the Australian Computer Emergency Response Team (AusCERT) in
this area, it said.
The ACMA said SMS had accounted for 10 percent of all formal
complaints about spam and the proportion had been increasing
steadily for the last 18 months. The complaints related
increasingly to the delivery of premium mobile services such as
Telstra is among the businesses who have complained that some
existing definitions in the Act "may restrict some forms of
legitimate and necessary customer communications".
They complained the restrictions may encompass messages such
as a welcome to a new customer that included an explanation of
how to use their new service, or notifications of deals and
"In Telstra's experience, failure to provide messages of this
type can damage customer relationships and create frustration
with the customer's ongoing use and enjoyment of their service",
the carrier said in its submission.
While it "firmly" supported the policy intentions underlying
the Act, the carrier said the legislation "does not currently
make clear the real and significant distinction between unwanted
customer communications and what it considers to be legitimate
service-related communications between businesses and their
"This lack of clarity is currently hindering both businesses
and customers by restricting the methods by which businesses are
able to communicate with their customers".