December 21, 2000, 3:45 PM — As expected, Austria's Parliament has voted to outlaw unsolicited "junk" e-mail, known as spam.
In a unanimous vote, the Parliament yesterday agreed to amend the country's telecommunication laws with a provision that makes it illegal to send unsolicited junk e-mail without the specific consent of users. Violators will face fines.
Austria, Germany and the Netherlands have taken Europe's toughest stances against spam, according to Joe McNamee, spokesman for EuroISPA, an association of Internet service providers from 10 European countries.
"We think its great," McNamee said of Austria's decision to ban spam. The move came after Austria's Justice Committee, a government advisory group made up of representatives from each political party, last week recommended the ban.
Internet service providers have sided with the antispam lobby in most European countries, as they have had to spend much time and money protecting their customers from the effects of spam, or dealing with complaints about it.
Spam harms Internet service providers' relationships with their customers, McNamee said, as many Internet users adhere to what he calls "conspiracy" theories that Internet service providers are passing users' personal information on to potential spammers.
"Spam doesn't make people feel comfortable about the brave new online world," said McNamee.
But a harsh stance toward spam is in direct conflict with the European Union's current position.
In May, the European Parliament passed up the chance to forbid spam. Instead, the Parliament upheld a European Commission proposal that would give consumers the right to opt out of receiving unsolicited e-mail.
The European Commission is expected to come up with a revised draft proposal for electronic commerce over the next two weeks, which will take the Parliament's spam recommendations into account, McNamee said.
"I think the European Commission would like to leave the question [of spam] open, so as not to offend anyone," said Karl Kollmann, deputy head of consumer policies at Austria's Chamber of Labor. The Chamber of Labor represents the interests of Austria's employees and has a say in the country's legislative policies.
Austrian government representatives are confident that Europe's "antispam" countries can convince members of the European Parliament and the Commission's
e-commerce working group to support their views.