UK fails to prosecute any spammers

The UK's Information Commissioner continues to take no action to stop junk emailers, despite spamming being outlawed in the UK. But should we worry?

More than two years after the UK enacted the first laws outlawing spam, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has admitted that it has still taken no action against any spammers.

According to the latest figures, the ICO it has now received 364 complaints about spam. But without greater powers and resources, it stands little chance of tacking the problem effectively.

"We are still calling for further powers, which the Department of Trade and Industry is aware of," a spokeswoman for the ICO told Computing. "We want stronger powers to take action."

It is understood that the ICO's office has repeatedly told the DTI that it needs sanctions such as "stop now" powers, to stop suspected spammers from sending unsolicited junk emails while their case is examined.

Last August, the ICO acknowledged that spam was a menace but admitted that it was powerless to act. In a statement at that time, it said that as "breaches of [anti-spam] regulations are not criminal offences there cannot be any prosecutions" and that, in any case, it received more complaints about direct marketing faxes and had "been successful in taking enforcement action in 13 cases of breaches by fax companies".

Derek Wyatt, the Labour MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey and the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Internet Group, said he was "not at all surprised" that the ICO had failed to make a single prosecution over spam.

"A few years ago, it [spam] was a real problem, now it is less so," Wyatt told ZDNet UK.

"We have learnt how to deal with spam and now the real issue is malicious attacks. Besides, the ICO is far too busy dealing with the hundreds and thousands of request for information he gets under the Freedom of Information Act to worry about nuisance spam," Wyatt added.

Last November, a man described as the UK's top spammer was jailed for six years. However, Peter Francis-Macrae was not prosecuted under the UK's anti-spam laws.