Press release: ISPA takes email database sellers to task

Published on: 2010-03-26

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The Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA) has expressed concern at growing volumes of email spam at its most recent Spam Jam event, hosted earlier this year by Telkom.

The organisation says that volumes of spam originating within South Africa are growing at an alarming rate, with a handful of high-profile spammers and email database sellers as the major culprits in the proliferation of spam. According to Symantec, spam accounted for 89.99% of email for February 2010 versus 86.49% for February 2009. Five years ago, in February 2005 the figure was only 57.3%.

Said ISPA’s Rob Hunter: “About 60% of all global email traffic is spam. Spam costs our members and their customers a fortune in unnecessary bandwidth charges each year, and the problem continues to get worse with every passing month. Despite the investments ISPs make in technology to combat spam, the spammers somehow manage to stay one step ahead.”

A handful of prolific email address database sellers are playing a major role in the deluge of spam in South Africa, Hunter added. In some instances, legitimate businesses buy email databases from list-sellers, unaware of the damage that using these lists could do to their brands, he said.

“Companies should be aware that consumers have not given their permission for their email addresses to be included in these databases or for marketers to send them unsolicited marketing emails,” said Hunter.

ISPA has taken a high-profile role in the fight against spam. It maintains a public Hall of Shame report that names the country’s most prolific spammers and list sellers, helping ISPA members, ISPs and individual and corporate email users to make informed decisions on mail they wish to receive or allow to pass over their networks.

This Hall of Shame has helped to change the behaviour of a number of the country’s most notorious spammers – those listed can asked to be removed from the list if they change their behaviour to fall in line with best practice.

The top South African spammers identified in the most recent report are, in no particular order, as follows:

Dynamic Seminars; New Heights 1268 /; SA Webs; and Bridging Finance. The top address resellers identified in the report are Mark Tribelhorn; Affordable Construction; Rain Marketing; Peter Van Wyk; and Mandy Simone.

According to the ECT Act, any person who sends unsolicited commercial communications to consumers, must provide the consumer with the option to cancel his or her subscription to the mailing list of that person and with the identifying particulars of the source from which that person obtained the consumer’s personal information, on request of the consumer.

ISPA’s own Code of Conduct – to which all members must adhere – takes a tougher line on spam, viewing all unsolicited bulk e-mail as spam unless the consumer has opted in to receiving the mail or would expect to receive the mail as a result of an existing relationship with the sender.

One challenge for ISPA in its fight against spam lies in the fact that South Africa has lacked a legal framework that deals adequately with protecting privacy rights where emails lists or databases are sold, Hunter said. But the Consumer Protection Act takes a tougher line on consumer privacy than earlier legal frameworks and may help to curb the activities of email address sellers, he added.

The new Act might also open the way for ISPA’s Code of Conduct to be adopted as an accepted industry code. That could mean that all providers of ISP services would need to live up to ISPA’s tough Code on spam, irrespective of whether they are members or not.

Further Information

For further information, please contact the ISPA secretariat on the Contact ISPA page.