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Netherlands issues first fines to spammers

First action since enactment of Dutch law banning unsolicited email

Authorities in the Netherlands have imposed their first fines for spam originating in their country.

The Dutch government's telecommunications agency OPTA, which is responsible for regulating spam, issued three separate fines on Tuesday, the first since the Netherlands agreed in May to a ban on unsolicited email to consumers.

"We have been collecting complaints about spam on a special spam website since May," said an OPTA spokesperson. "Now we're going after major spammers in this country, and these are the first results."

The largest fine, €42,500 (£30,000), was levied against an individual involved in four spam runs, according to the spokesperson.

A second fine targeted a one-man printing company, called Gorenendaal, that was soliciting orders for the book Mein Kampf, written by Adolf Hitler. "Apart from the fact that the company was sending spam, this publication is banned," the spokesperson said.

OPTA issued the third fine to a group called Yellow Monday, which sent spam to mobile phones via SMS. "This spam was the nastiest of all because consumers who opened the spam were automatically billed," the spokesman said.

Asked about spam originating outside of the Netherlands, the spokesperson conceded that, "This is a big problem."

In a move to coordinate international efforts to fight spam in Europe, OPTA has introduced an information-sharing program for regulators and other government bodies that fight spam. The program aims to establish an exchange of information about spammers across the European Union (EU).

So far, eight countries have signed up, according to the spokesperson. OPTA's goal is to have all 25 EU member states on board.

"We have to be honest: We don't expect to root out spam completely – this would be an illusion," the spokesman said. "But we're trying to do our best."

To that end, the Dutch economics ministry plans to propose a new law that would extend the ban on spam to the business community, the spokesperson said.

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