Monday, 3 June 2013

Worth a try...


Spamming companies is not really covered, but my company email address is delivered to my personal email address, so I, as an individual subscriber get the email transmitted to me, at their instigation. So I think we are covered. Should be fun.

19 comments:

  1. They've lived in my spam folder at work for many months now, although I've noticed the frequency of their email has dropped right off as I scan through for the occasional false positive. I told the first one or two I had nothing to do with recruitment and told them who to talk to, but that obviously fell on deaf ears. They've obviously not done any research on my employers, based on the sort of people they seem to be trying to place.

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    1. Any reason for limiting it to 5 pounds? Given the faff factor of turning up at court it would seem reasonable to make a higher charge (I tell telesales that they will incurr a charge of 50gbp per hour or part thereof, or 100gbp for out of standard office hours... not actually made a claim yet though :)

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    2. Well, yes, could be higher. I am trying to prove a principle though. £5 is hard to argue as a real cost, £50 might be not as easy. Lets prove we can claim at all first. An actual case would be ideal. And, TBH, £5 *per* *email* could soon add up :-)

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    3. Especially if they have to pay the £25 court fee each time.

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    4. I'm not terribly familiar with the small claims process - do you have to pay the court fee if you lose?

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    5. Oh yes, and the £100/hour thing is on the principle that that's what I'd charge a customer for phoning me up on the weekend and making me drop whatever I was doing to do some emergency work for them :)

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  2. I feel a bit mixed on this one :). On the one hand it's absolute genius and I'm sure many of us could, if successful, use it as a similar tactic to tackle spammers.

    On the other hand email is a somewhat unregulated service and I've never liked the idea of associating money with reception / delivery of messages as this could conceivably open the floodgates to a new kind of abuse (Double Edged Sword).

    In any case I suspect the small claims court would not be able to rule on this, at least not in any way that would affect the wider industry, without referring it to a higher and most certainly more expensive authority.

    MarkJ
    ISPreview.co.uk

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    1. The only grey area is whether it was transmitted to an individual subscriber. There is no complex point of law so not sure why the county court cannot decide this - it is quite simply against the law to spam individual subscribers.

      I assert that the email was indeed transmitted to an individual subscriber regardless of their intended recipient being a company, as that just happens to be how our company email is set up (I operate one personal mailbox for personal and company email). To force the point even more, I personally pay for "email services" on the aa.net.uk domain, so that too is an "individual subscriber" under the definition in the regulations.

      Email is regulated by the Telecommunications Act just as much as telephone calls are, so not sure why you think it is unregulated Mark.

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    2. Unregulated might be the wrong word.. perhaps not closed is better. Hmm. Email is what I regard as one of the internet’s Wild West platforms of old where anybody can send a message to anyone without incurring a specific charge (excluding what you pay for general access). But that's been both a good and a bad thing for its development.

      Spam might technically be illegal but the laws that exist have so far only been enacted in a small number of cases; they’re paper thin, poorly recognised by judges (except for special cases) and broadly unenforced.

      But my concern is more with the idea that you can unilaterally charge somebody for sending you a message and set such a low threshold around that. After all if you truly don’t want to receive mail from that specific individual then it is within your power to block their address completely.

      Now if they were sending hundreds or thousands of messages to you then that’s certainly harmful and a case for realistic damages can be made. But the odd spam here or there, however annoying, well IMO I’d rather tolerate / block it and keep the concept of a free / open communication medium than put a pay-wall in front.

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    3. The legislation is there already, and is specific to marketing emails. Normal emails and general communications are not impeded, and, as ever, one cannot simply say "I'm charging for any email I received". This is a specific case of unsolicited marketing emails.

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    4. I was rather irritated to be told University accounts don't qualify as 'individual' - apart from anything else, students (I'm not one, but staff and students aren't distinguishable from the address in that particular setup) are paying for a package of services which happens to include an email address, so how does that differ from, say, a Virgin TV+cable modem customer's address?

      (The one silver lining was that since the address contains my name, it's Personally Identifiable Information, so apparently I do have the right to stop the spammer 'processing' it again in future. Not really scalable, though.)

      In general, I find the UK authorities depressingly tolerant of spam, both email and phone; even with TPS registration, I often get multiple junk calls in a day plugging "government incentives" for renewable power on the flimsy excuse that selling government-subsidised products isn't "selling" in their book. If it starts costing £5 a time plus legal costs, that's a small step towards stamping out that plague!

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    5. If you, as an individual, contract / pay-for the email service then I cannot see how it does not qualify. Do read the regulations. Who told you that?

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    6. An ICO complaints person - I disagreed with their interpretation, but since the issue was a hypothetical for me anyway in that particular case, I suspect I'd have struggled to escalate the issue at the time. (With hindsight, since the spam was sent from another university to promote a conference they were hosting, I'd probably have been better going to Janet rather than the ICO; as I recall, Janet's spam prohibition is rather broader.)

      On reflection, the ICO person seemed to be regarding the university as being a customer of an ISP (so anything @example.ac.uk would be 'email to Example University' for their purposes), rather than being a 'provider of public electronic communications services' in itself - flawed logic, particularly when the university actually sells the email accounts independently as a service in their own right.

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  3. This isn't a case of unilaterally charging somebody for sending a message.

    The sender was sending marketing emails in contravention of the law - in theory they could have been prosecuted right there since they broke the law. They were asked not to send any more emails and were informed of a charge if they did so, which they acknowledged - this essentially forms a contract which they accepted. They continued to send emails in the full knowledge that they had already agreed to a contract that included a charge for this.

    The way I see it:
    1. The sender of an email is responsible for knowing whether they are complying with the law. This is especially true where they are sending marketing emails since this is explicitly addressed by the law.
    2. A party to a contract is responsible for knowing what actions that contract says are chargeable and to either accept those charges and pay up, or avoid doing something they know they will be charged for.

    Another point I would dispute is the idea that a spammer is not harmful unless they are sending hundreds or thousands of messages to a single recipient, and that it should be up to the recipient to block them individually - spam is a significant problem and is certainly harmful (takes time to go through an inbox full of spam, time and money to set up spam filters, time to set up the individual blocks for each sender that are being advocated, etc.); and yet this is not due to a single sender sending vast amounts of mail to one recipient - this is due to a vast number of senders each sending a few emails to each recipient. All these mails add up, and it doesn't matter whether they are a single sender or multiple senders, they still cost resources to deal with (in fact a single sender would be easier to block!).

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  4. Hmm, being picky, but if you're "personally paying" for use of an e-mail address in .net.uk aren't you in breach of Nominet Terms on that domain?

    "11.2.5" for example - "The Domain Name must not be used in connection with any service provided by the registrant on behalf of any other entity. For example, the Domain Name must not be used as part of another entity's e-mail address or URL."

    Surely the registrant is the business, and you, as another entity are paying for and using the e-mail address, it's a breach of terms.

    No?

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    1. It is used by the company, for company email. I pay for the email service on that domain personally but do not use it as a personal email address. You can pay for something without using it. Nominet are concerned with usage not payment. The regs on smal are concerned with contracts, and so who pays, not usage.

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  5. Hmm, not sure I agree entirely, the logic sound flawed overall to me.

    I would imagine that the envelope address is the end of the matter in terms of legality of communication. In the same way I don't think I'd get very far if I posted something but there was a redirection to somewhere else - that's all you've got here.

    Like the theory, just think the logic is broken.

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    1. Indeed, I am not a lawyer so not best at reading regulations, but it seems to be that "intent" is not what is covered here, just fact. Was the email transmitted to an individual subscriber. The delivery to my personal mailbox is part of the email process - is that a redirect? If is different to having a company postal address where there are also some individual pigeon holes / post boxes in the lobby, and email to my name at the company address goes to my personal post box?

      Anyway, to help my case I am paying for the email service on the company domain. It is used solely for company email but as I pay for it as an individual, then I am the "subscriber" and as such mail to it is covered by the regulations.

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