Dear Colleagues,

In its implementation of the distance selling directive, the Austrian parliament has passed a law prohibiting unsolicited commercial e-mail and spamming. This ban requested by Austrian consumer organizations, Internet user groups and the Austrian ISP (Internet Service Providers) was ultimately passed by all political parties. Commercial e-mail may now be sent only with the recipient's express consent (revocable at any time).

The Austrian regulation was required for the following reasons: - The mass sending of unsolicited commercial e- mail (also known as "spamming") is one of the greatest irritants on the Internet and tarnishes the reputation of electronic commerce as a whole. - Unsolicited commercial e- mail clogs users' electronic mailboxes, increases loading times, and incurs costs for users. - There are no effective technical means by which to intercept and filter out undesirable commercial e-mail. The "opt out" approach always suggested is not only technically complicated and difficult to administer, it poses certain data protection problems as well. - Since the sending of unsolicited e-mail badly damages a firm's image, reputable companies abandoned this practice long ago. Many marketing experts also warn against using this form of advertising. - Spam typically contains pyramid games, pornography and sham offers designed to entice customers. - According to traditional Internet etiquette ("Netiquette") in place for many years now, nonconsensual advertising by e-mail is not permitted.

After Austria's and Italy's ban of unsolicited commercial e- mail, Germany has now also followed suit. It appears only sensible and indeed necessary to take the next step and implement this ban and, with it, the traditional "opt-in" approach at the European level.

The Austrian Federal Chamber of Labor urges you to support this initiative and to promote it with appropriate lobbying and other suitable activities aimed at the national ruling governments (in light of their votes in the European Council), the European Commission and the members of the European Parliament. Given the current European rules, the European Council is the only body able to set new legal and political accents in the next phase of these efforts. The Internet user groups in Central Europe also plan to launch activities at the European level. It should be noted that many smaller businesses and free lancers are also very hard hit by the problem of spamming.

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(Univ Doz Dr) Karl Kollmann, Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour - Consumer Policy Department, A-1040 Wien, Prinz Eugen Str 20-22, Tel. +43-1-50165-2307 Fax: +43-1-50165-2693 Mobile: +436644537734 email at Vienna University of Economics: kollmann@wu-wien.ac.at