Australian spam bill adds costly burden for business

IT departments will shoulder the costly burden of updating marketing databases and cleansing client lists to comply with Australia's Spam Bill, Baker & McKenzie e-commerce expert Adrian Lawrence warns.

IT departments will shoulder the costly burden of updating marketing databases and cleansing client lists to comply with Australia's Spam Bill, Baker & McKenzie e-commerce expert Adrian Lawrence warns.

He says compliance will place pressure on IT resources for legislation that will be "largely ineffective" because up to 95% of spam is sourced from overseas.

"This could be a potentially expensive compliance burden to ensure electronic communications do not breach the law. A single email can be considered spam under the legislation, meaning, at least in theory, that each and every email sent in a commercial context might need to be considered in light of the new laws," Lawrence says.

In addition to reviewing database lists, he says companies will need to be diligent when vetting correspondence for e-marketing purposes.

"Many businesses would be shocked to find that their standard marketing and promotional activities may now be characterised as spam," he says.

Claiming the proposed legislation is "too loosely defined", Lawrence believes the only outcome likely to occur as a result of the bill is that a few local spammers will be made examples of, and forced to move offshore.

Business, he says, simply rely on filtering software to manage electronic communications not legislation.

Although the bill aims to reduce the cost of managing spam for business Lawrence says it may have the reverse effect with compliance proving costly.

Responding to the claims IT Minister Daryl Williams admits local laws alone will not solve the problem but it will provide a springboard to the development of international agreements.

Inn the short to medium term, Williams says Australia is developing Memoranda of Understanding with overseas agencies for joint cooperation on anti-spamming issues.

"In time, we expect that this interaction and cooperation will lead to bilateral and multilateral agreements on enforcement activities against spammers, possible along similar lines to the existing international consumer protection arrangements in which the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission participates," he says adding that NOIE is working directly with the European Commission.

The Spam Bill is expected to take effect in 2004.

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