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Spammers will be "pursued": IIA

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) has warned that violators of the Australian Spam Act will be pursued, following a meeting with the Federal Police High Tech Crime Unit earlier this week.Peter Coroneos, chief executive of the IIA, says the meeting was one of many discussions the association has had with the Federal Police, as the industry gears up for the enactment of the legislation on the 10th of this month.

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) has warned that violators of the Australian Spam Act will be pursued, following a meeting with the Federal Police High Tech Crime Unit earlier this week.

Peter Coroneos, chief executive of the IIA, says the meeting was one of many discussions the association has had with the Federal Police, as the industry gears up for the enactment of the legislation on the 10th of this month.

Coroneos said he could not disclose details of the meeting, however he stated that the IIA and the Federal Police want people to be aware that repeat offenders of the Spam Act will not be dealt with lightly.

"At the lowest level offenders will receive an infringement notice, but for blatant deliberate repeated spamming the penalties are very high," said Coroneos, adding that serious offences could induce fines of up to AU$1.1 million, with daily fines of AU$220,000 for each day the offence continues.

Coroneos says an important part of enacting the new legislation is educating businesses on how to comply with the law, and also to let them know "the government has the intentions of pursuing them if they don't".

According to Coroneos the Federal Police and the IIA think the legislation will have a "deterring effect" on spammers in Australia and help initiate cooperation for spam prevention from other countries.

"The legislation will provide Australia with a basis to seek support of other countries to create similar legislation to produce a global response to this problem," said Coroneos.

According to Coroneos, the Australian Spam Act takes a more "proactive" approach than the US spam legislation, as the Australian model requires businesses to obtain a customer's consent before an e-mail is sent in the first instance; a feature, he says, that "makes it better from the outset".

"Senders of commercial messages need applied consent of users to send to them in the first place. It's the 'opt in' approach; the States have 'opt out', where users have to request to unsubscribe to messages after receiving them," said Coroneos.

Coroneos states the US approach has raised a number of concerns, as although the law makes it mandatory for commercial messages to contain an "unsubscribe" link, he says "if there are a large number of businesses sending emails then there's still a lot of spam out there".

As stated by Coroneos, Australia is not a major contributor to the global spam problem, yet he says that such legislative measures will prevent domestic spam activity from increasing in the future.

"There are four elements to solving this problem," said Coroneos, citing "strong enforcement of domestic legislation, end user empowerment, technological solutions and international cooperation" as the key formula for tackling spam.

"The point is all of these strategies need to be employed for it to work. They work in tandem with each other," Coroneos said.

According to Coroneos, there are "quite a few" organisations pulling together to give power to the legislative strategy, including consumer groups, industry groups, governments and even business enterprises.

"A lot of businesses recognise the need for their communications to be read, and evidence shows that if a customer has agreed to receive a message they will respond positively to it," he said.

Coroneos describes e-mail as a "valuable medium" that needs to be protected, a factor he says the whole industry recognises.

"As we approach the start date of the legislation everyone wants to see what they can contribute to make it [the legislation] work," said Coroneos.