Sarah has been asking questions of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry relating to unsolicited bulk communications (be they by mail, telephone or fax calls or email.

You can follow the question thread here.

Sarah wanted to know how many residential and commercial address have registered for the Address Preference Service – But because the Post Office is no longer a state concern, the address preference service is not managed by the government but by Royal Mail Group. However, the Secretary Of State is able to ask the Chief Executive of Royal Mail Group to reply directly to Sarah to answer this question. What power! I bet if I wrote to the Chief Executive asking for that information it wouldn’t be too forthcoming!

Sarah also asked if the Government would be introducing something similar to the Address Preference Service for email.

Stephen Timms replied “The Government introduced the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations in December 2003, which cover, among other things, the regulation of unsolicited commercial e-mails. The Government have no plans to introduce an e-mail preference service.”

“The Government have not ruled out extending the “opt-in” right to corporate subscribers. However, as the regulations have only been in force for seven months, it is too early to assess how the new provisions are working in practice, and what areas, if any, might need to be reviewed.”

Even if the Government did introduce legislation to combat SPAM, I don’t have much hope for its effectiveness. The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) is the body that has responsibility to ensure that those registered on the Fax Preference Service and the Telephone Preference Service are not contacted by unsolicited communication. It is this body that issues enforcement notices and would pass a file to the CPS for prosecution.

Stephen Timms clarified the legislation in a written answer to Sarah: ” A company or individual that contravenes an enforcement notice commits a criminal offence and, upon successful prosecution, could be subject to a fine of up to £5,000 in a magistrates court.”

However, Sarah was asking the Secretary of State for the numbers of successful prosecutions since 1999. The response? “As the ICO has no evidence that the companies and individuals against whom notices have been issued warrant prosecution, to date no fines have been imposed in respect of contravention of these rules.”

Sounds like the ICO is a paper tiger.

I wonder if the Lib Dems are going to come out with a SPAM policy? Or maybe this little bit of research was carried out to discover how effective current legislation / administration is in order to workout the cost saving of abolishing it.