News From 2006

Filed under General



  • L.A.P. holds Spam Enforcement Workshop

July 2006 – The Office of Fair Trading, through the UK presidency of the European Union, has invited members of the London Action Plan (LAP) network and the Contact Network of Spam Authorities (CNSA) to participate in a two-day ‘spam enforcement workshop’. The workshop will be held in London at the Department of Trade and Industry Conference Centre on Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th November 2005.

The event will build on a previous spam enforcement workshop which was held in London in October 2004, and on previous meetings of the CNSA. The event will focus on the use of spam data for enforcement and issues raised by investigative assistance requests and complaints referrals.

The event will be composed of a mixture of presentations, plenary discussions and practical break out sessions. Among other things, the following topics will be covered:

  • Use of spam databases and other spam data
  • Collection of data about spam trends
  • Possible investigative assistance and complaints referral mechanisms

Case studies and enforcement action from various countries

The workshop will be attended by a mixture of professionals from enforcement agencies and the private sector worldwide, providing an opportunity for exciting discussions and information exchange by those operationally involved in the investigation of spam-related issues.

If you have any queries about the event please contact the OFT’s events team at in the first instance.


  • Beijing Signs Up To Global Anti-spam Accord

July 2006 – China, the second biggest source of unsolicited emails, has today committed to UK/US-led international efforts to combat spam.

At a ceremony attended by British Ambassador Christopher Hum and US Federal Trade Commissioner Jon Leibowitz, China announced it would join international enforcement efforts against spam by adopting the London Action Plan on Spam Enforcement Collaboration.

UK E-Commerce Minister Alun Michael welcomed the news, which comes after months of discussion between the UK and Chinese authorities. He said “We have long been keen to engage with China on the issue of spam, in particular because China is probably the second biggest source of spam in the world.

“China engaged constructively in the Asia-Europe Meeting on E-Commerce in London in February. Now, as China reaches the 100m Internet users mark, we welcome this opportunity to work with China to make the Internet safer for users.

“During our Presidency of the EU and beyond, we will continue to intensify our activities with Chinese and other partners to address spam and viruses, and therefore contribute to the continued development and safety of the global information society.”

China’s representative in the London Action Plan will be Union Network Beijing, a body mandated by the Chinese Government to enforce its recent antispam law and combat the spread of computer viruses.

The Plan calls for increased investigative training, the establishment of points of contact in each agency to respond quickly and effectively to enforcement inquiries, and the creation of an international working group on spam enforcement. It builds on the earlier efforts of international organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) toward building international cooperation on spam. The London Action Plan has had considerable effect in recent months. In just one day in February this year, operation ‘Spam Sweep’ involved agencies and industry in more than 30 countries simultaneously analysing 300,000 spam emails, resulting in more than 300 in depth cross-border investigations. Most recently, operation ‘Spam Zombies’ was part of a worldwide effort to prevent hijacking of computers by spammers without the users’ knowledge. Letters were sent by 20 members of the London Action Plan and 16 additional government agencies to more than 3000 Internet service providers encouraging them to take zombie-prevention measures.

 Note for Editors

1. The London Action Plan was initially launched after a conference on spam enforcement hosted jointly by the UK Office of Fair Trading and the US Federal Trade Commission in London in October 2004. It was the first international forum to focus exclusively on spam enforcement. Now constituted of over 30 consumer protection, data protection, and telecommunications agencies and more than a dozen private sector representatives, spanning four continents, the LAP organises regular virtual conferences for its members to exchange best practice and prepare joint actions against spammers. The text of the London Action Plan is at:

2. China is thought to be the second largest source of spam after the United States, with about 20% of all spam. Most of this spam, however, seems to be generated by ‘zombie computers’, or ‘botnets’, used by spammers outside of China without the users’ knowledge.

3. The Regulations applying to spam in the UK are the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) which came into force on 12 December 2004. The DTI is committed to reviewing these regulations on an ongoing basis, to ensure their effectiveness.

4. The UK has initiated and led international efforts to enforce anti-spam laws, in Europe and beyond, through multilateral forums such as the OECD, and bilateral arrangements.

Department of Trade and Industry


  • International agencies join forces to combat spam

July 2006 – Global cooperation on network security, law enforcement and heightened consumer awareness is needed to help shield internet users from spam, said the OFT today at a conference of international spam enforcement agencies in London.

The conference, hosted by the OFT and the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), brings together consumer protection, data protection and telecommunications agencies from over 20 countries to promote cross-border cooperation on spam and spam-related problems, such as on-line fraud and computer viruses.

Download the opening remarks by John Vickers, to the international Spam Enforcement Workshop (pdf 98 kb).

Bulk unsolicited electronic messages, or spam, accounts for over 60 per cent of all e-mail traffic on the internet, up from under half in 2003 and under ten per cent in 2001 (see note 4), and is frequently linked to fraudulent, deceptive or pornographic commercial activities. It is estimated that over 80 per cent of spam received by UK internet users originates from overseas, making cross-border collaboration on enforcement essential.

Successful joint enforcement actions against spam to date include:

  • an investigation carried out by the FTC and the OFT into a company trading as TLD Networks stopped spam which originated in the UK and targeted US consumers, in the immediate wake of September 11, with a patriotic message to lure them into buying fake domain names
  • an investigation by the OFT and the Italian competition authority into a case of spam linked to modem hijacking. Italian consumers were targeted by spam sent by a UK-based company, directing recipients to a cookery website. The recipient’s modem connections were redirected to a premium rate line. The company withdrew the website and closed its offices following the OFT’s intervention.

The conference will include sessions on comparing the enforcement powers of different government agencies and departments; effective collection of evidence; cooperation with the private sector on initiatives to combat spam; and devising a practical framework for international law enforcement through bilateral and multilateral agreements between enforcement agencies. The conference will conclude with a best practice training seminar hosted by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), this year chaired by the OFT.

 John Vickers, OFT Chairman, said:

‘Spam is not just annoying and intrusive. It gets in the way of legitimate e-commerce, and is often a vehicle for scams and computer viruses. International collaboration by enforcement agencies, the efforts of the computer and communications industries, and smart consumers at home -who take steps to protect themselves – are all needed to combat the internet scammers.’

 Deborah Majoras, FTC Chairman, said:

‘This gathering is unique not only because it is the first international meeting of spam enforcers, but also because our participants represent diverse organisations. We are all united, however, by a common goal: to stop deceptive and fraudulent spam from flooding our email boxes, threatening our data security, and undermining email’s effectiveness as a tool for commerce and communication.’

 Richard Thomas, Information Commissioner, said:

‘Spam is international and needs global cooperation. Developing a consistent approach to enforcement is a necessary step towards tackling the problem. But there are limits to what can be done by regulation and the communications industry has made great efforts to find technical solutions to spam. It is also important for businesses and individuals to keep up to date with improvements and developments in technical blocks and filters.’


When you get spam emails, remember:

  • much spam is a scam
  • if an offer looks too good to be true – it’s probably false
  • if an email looks doubtful – delete it

Three tips to avoid scam:

  • use a spam filter – often available with your email package
  • don’t click on the adverts in spam emails – if you do, you may download a virus
  • protect your email address – never share it with people you don’t know on the internet.

See consumer tips for combating spam on the consumer information section of this website.


  1. In the UK the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 regulate the sending of spam. Businesses and other organisations must gain prior consent before sending marketing emails to individuals, except where messages meet the terms of an exemption for an existing customer relationship. Under this exemption, businesses marketing by email to their own customers may continue to do so providing they have obtained consent i.e. until the addressee requests that the communications stop. The regulations are enforced by the Information Commissioner’s Office who can apply enforcement orders to those who breach the regulations. A breach of an order is a criminal offence carrying a fine of up to £5000. The Information Commissioner’s Office has published its own guidance, available at the Information Commissioner website.The OFT can take action under the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988, Distance Selling Regulations 2000, the E-commerce Regulations 2002 and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. These regulations govern the content of spam.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency may take action where spam emails advertise the commercial supply of a prescription-only medicine.

  1. In the United States, spam is regulated under the Can-Spam Act 2003. The Act is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and other appropriate federal agencies. States, acting on behalf of residents, and providers of internet access services are also permitted to bring civil actions for violations of certain sections of the Act.
  2. The OFT, the Information Commissioner’s Office and the FTC have signed a memorandum of understanding covering mutual enforcement of spam regulations; exchange of information and best practice including on technical remedies; cooperation on awareness-raising activities; and government-industry collaboration.
  3. Figures for spam as a proportion of email traffic are provided by Brightmail, a supplier of anti-spam software, who monitor about 11 per cent of all email traffic worldwide.
  4. See OFT and FTC consumer tips for combating spam.


  • Operation Global Con

September 2006565 arrests in “Operation Global Con” – spammers, telemarketing, fraudsters etc

Speech from the US Attorney General on the Operation Global Con initiative: 

 Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales on Arrests in “Operation Global Con,” International Initiative Targeting Mass-Marketing Fraud May 23, 2006

 I am joined by Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras, Chief Postal Inspector Lee R. Heath, and Attorney General Francisco Dall’Anese Ruiz of Costa Rica.

Over the past 15 months, United States and foreign law enforcement agencies have targeted international fraudulent mass-marketing schemes in the largest enforcement operation of its kind. The results of Operation Global Con have been dramatic – with 565 arrests, both here and abroad.

We all know the annoyance of phone calls, junk mail, and spam and pop-up ads that bombard us with seemingly incredible financial offers. For millions of Americans, these intrusions have been more than a nuisance.

Operation Global Con targeted international mass-marketing schemes. These criminals used telemarketing, the Internet, and mass mailings, to cheat unsuspecting people through bogus investments, fake lotteries and sweepstakes schemes, phony credit cards, and tax frauds.

In Miami, Florida, for instance, two defendants allegedly duped investors in the United States and Europe for more than $3 million dollars. Investors in Discovery Capital believed it to be legitimate because the defendants would occasionally use funds received from new investors to send out purported interest and dividends. Allegedly, the rest of the money went to fancy cars and million-dollar homes for the defendants.

In the United States alone, law enforcement conducted 96 investigations into this kind of criminal conduct – and arrested nearly 140 people. Along the way, nearly 3 million victims have been defrauded of more than $1 billion dollars.

We’ve succeeded by working together with our international allies – including authorities in Canada, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, and Spain – to take down even more criminals abroad. Among other supportive countries have been the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Nigeria.

This close cooperation enabled us to develop virtual task forces. Cutting-edge technology enables us to reduce the actual exchange of personnel typical of international task forces. Our virtual task forces with Costa Rica and the Netherlands provide a new model for bringing international con artists to justice.

In such a massive effort, we have many people to thank. From our foreign partners I’d like to thank the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Costa Rica Attorney General’s Office, the Costa Rica Judicial Investigation Organization, the Amsterdam Police, the Dutch Public Prosecutor, the Competition Bureau of Industry Canada, the PhoneBustersNationalCallCenter in Canada, and our six joint U.S.-Canadian task forces across Canada.

I’d also like to thank our American partners – the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Federal Trade Commission, plus the Diplomatic Security Service, Department of Commerce Inspector General, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, and Commodity Futures Trading Commission, along with 30 U.S. Attorneys Offices and the Criminal and Tax Divisions of the U.S. Department of Justice.

 Thank you all for your cooperation in this fight for consumers everywhere.

Alberto R. Gonzales


  •  Commission Communication on the Review of the EU Regulatory Framework

October 2006 – The European Commission has adopted today its Communication on the Review of the EU Regulatory Framework for electronic communications networks and services. As you know, this review also concerns the e-Privacy Directive.

The Communication is complemented by a Staff Working Document which outlines in greater detail possible changes to the regulatory framework, and by an Impact Assessment.

These documents launch a formal public consultation. The Commission invites comments on the changes proposed in the Communication and on the accompanying Staff Working Paper. The public consultation will run until 27 October 2006.

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