Leader: Spam laws shame the UK

Nobody really emerges from this covered in any kind of glory...

Nobody really emerges from this covered in any kind of glory...

This week silicon.com revealed the results of a Freedom of Information Act enquiry into the DTI. We wanted to know why the UK's anti-spam laws are so lame and so we asked the DTI just who it consulted with in drafting the laws.

We knew the Direct Marketing Association had been involved and we were pretty sure those who opposed tighter legislation were likely to have a vested interest in the perpetuation of email marketing but we weren't quite prepared for how fatally flawed the whole process had been.

We received a list of company names which read like a who's who of direct marketing. What value the former DTI minister Stephen Timms saw in consulting with these people when their response was so predictable is beyond us.

Of course they all said spam is a good thing and businesses want to receive unsolicited email. This pointless and one-sided consultation is compounded by the fact Steve Linford at Spamhaus claims his organisation, and others like it, weren't initially consulted as their opposition was clearly taken for granted.

With situations such as this, once you start pulling the loose thread it is always surprising how much unravels.

So far, one organisation has spoken to silicon.com, held up its hands and admitted with hindsight that it made a terrible mistake.

A spokesman for the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce told silicon.com: "At the time spam was not such a big problem for business and the general feeling was that business wanted to hear from other organisations in order to maintain and establish new contacts.

"However, the problem has grown and maybe now attitudes are different."

In the past, representatives of bodies such as the Office of Fair Trading and the DTI have objected to silicon.com's cynicism on the issue of anti-spam legislation and the role the UK government and regulators can play.

Experts in the field, such as Spamhaus' Linford, say the DTI is in better shape now and aware of its past failings.

Now they must clean up the mess they created two years ago and show they can effectively tackle issues they have to date only managed to complicate.