New law puts 'hefty price tag' on spam


BUSINESSES FOUND to be sending unsolicited e-mails and text messages could face fines of up to €250,000 under new legislation signed by Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan.

The regulations, which come into effect immediately, relate to all unsolicited mail sent by e-mail, text message or fax. Unsolicited mail for direct marketing purposes will be treated as an indictable offence under the legislation.

The new laws will allow the Data Protection Commissioner to refer serious breaches of the legislation for prosecution through the Circuit Court, where fines of up to €250,000, or 10 per cent of the offending company's turnover, may be imposed. The number of complaints made to the Data Protection Commissioner in relation to spamming increased from 66 in 2005 to 538 last year.

Offenders were previously prosecuted in the District Court where the maximum fine was €3,000. This figure has now been increased to €5,000. Mr Ryan said spam was a serious threat to the internet, posing security risks and that such communications were a serious invasion of privacy.

"Unwanted communication, either by e-mail or to a mobile phone is more than a nuisance - it wastes money and energy," he said. "Millions every year are lost to Irish companies through lost productivity as spam clogs inboxes and crashes servers," he said.

Mr Ryan said making spamming an indictable offence with a hefty price tag for the offenders gave Ireland one of the most stringent enforcement regimes in Europe.