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Consumer protection and awareness

Background paper

Spam is one of the major concerns for consumers accessing the Internet today. The necessity of creating effective information networks and spam-reporting mechanisms for users of the net should therefore not be underestimated. Increased coordination between consumer associations and organizations, in particular with regard to the sharing of information and best practices, can prove crucial in this process. Enhanced cooperation can allow consumers to further develop their skills in using electronic means of communication, allowing them to better protect themselves against spam and thus increasing influence.


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Material related to spam and the consumer
Spam is a global problem affecting consumers and businesses worldwide. As is often the case when new technologies appear, abuse is not far behind. The application of existing laws, appropriate Internet industry policies, technology and consumer awareness could, for instance, deal with abusive electronic mailing. The more aware consumers are about ways to protect themselves against spam the quicker the economic motivators for spam can be changed. 

See: Spam Discussion Paper, Industry Canada, January 2003 

Operation "Secure your Server" advises Internet users on how to adjust the server settings, making it more difficult for spammers to clog e-mail inboxes. The web page has information on the efforts made to let individuals and organizations become aware of how their mail servers or proxy servers can be abused by spammers.

See: Operation "Secure your Server" and the related Shut the Door on Spam document, US Federal Trade Commission, January 2004 

How do spammers get our e-mail addresses? Addresses placed visibly on public websites are favourite targets for spammers, who use harvesting programs such as "robots" to gather e-mail addresses listed on the Web. Internet users are often not aware of the different ways that an e-mail address attracts spam and that this depends to a large extent on where the e-mail address has been used. This document provides Internet users with some insights into what online behavior results in the most spam.

See: Why Am I Getting all this spam?, Center for Democracy and Technology, March 2003 

Spam is one of the most significant challenges facing the Internet today. ISPs, legislators, law enforcement authorities, marketers, businesses and consumers are some of the numerous groups having to deal with spam. In addition to establishing laws and regulations on spam nationally, consumers and businesses need to be educated on how to best avoid spam and what process to follow for the reporting of spam to the appropriate enforcement agency. But what are the best ways to convey information to consumers and businesses on spam and what spam reporting mechanisms have shown to be most effective? 

See: The European Commission's communication on spam, European Commission, January 2004

Consumers, businesses, and even e-mail marketers are losing out in the battle against spam. Some of the negative sentiments about spam are impacting the development of legitimate direct marketing. What approach is needed to contain spam while protecting legitimate e-mail marketing as an emerging and promising channel? How is anti-spam legislation affecting direct marketing companies?

See: The Direct Marketing Association (DMA)
       Australian Direct Marketing Association (ADMA)
       Canadian Marketing Association (CMA)

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Cross border consumer associations

Coalition against unsolicited commercial e-mail (CAUCE)
CAUCE seeks to advocate a legislative solution to spam. Founded by Netizens who realized that technology alone cannot stop junk e-mail, CAUCE claims that as long as there is an economic incentive to send junk e-mail, users and ISPs will need some legal recourse to stop the growing flood.
   Main CAUCE web page
   Australia CAUBE
   Canada CAUCE
   India CAUCE

Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
EPIC, a public interest research center, aims to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues, constitutional values and privacy protection. The center has a long-standing interest in the complex policy issue of reducing spam.
  How spammers obtain e-mail addresses and more
  Costs to consumers when privacy is not protected
  EPIC online guide to practical privacy tools

European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC)
Defending and promoting the interests of European consumers, BEUC asks that consumers have the option to choose the content and cost related to the e-mails they receive.
  Ensuring European consumer choice  

International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)
ICC as the "world business organization", has committed to giving businesses and consumers the tools needed to increase awareness in order to help combat spam. 
  Tools to help businesses and consumers with spam

International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN)
ICPEN, a network of governmental organizations involved in the enforcement of fair trade practice laws and other consumer protection activities, has as their main objective to prevent and redress deceptive marketing practices with an international component. Of these members, consumer protection agencies from 17 nations came together to create a cross-border e-commerce complaints and consumer information website.

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Country consumer resources for spam
Australia  - Australian Communications Authority (ACA)
  General consumer information on spam 
guide on spam

Denmark  - The Danish Consumer Agency
  Consumer information on spam (in Danish)

France    - Commission Nationale Informatique et LibertÚs  
  Information on spam (in French)
  The "spam box" for reporting on spam
(in French)

Ireland    - Irish e-government website with information related to public services
Tips on how to deal with unsolicited offensive e-mail 

Japan      - Japanese Ministry of Post and Telecommunications
  Report on consumer support in telecommunications

Netherlands - Platform for eNetherlands  workshop on spam (in Dutch)

New Zealand  - Non-profit organization InternetNZ
StopSpam online consumer resource

Norway    - Norwegian Post and Telecommunication Authority
  Information on the safe use of e-mail and how to avoid spam

Singapore - Singapore's Anti-Spam Resource Centre
  Resources for combating spam

Sweden    - The Swedish Consumer Agency
  Tips on how to avoid spam
(in Swedish)

United Kingdom  - Independent British supervisory authority 
  Advice on how to prevent spam
  Advice on how to reduce spam 

United States of America - Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 
  Website for consumers and victims of spam

United States of America - National Consumer League (NCL)
  Consumer guide to Internet safety, privacy and security 
  Consumer spam prevention tips

United States of America - National Consumers Alliance (NCA)
  NCA's white papers on spam
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Updated : 2011-04-04