19 July 2008

Datapro/Vox Spam Wrapup

Its been a long, long time... way too long... since I promised to report back on my complaint to the ISPA in which I accused Datapro/Vox Telecom of being spammers.

The first part of the ISPA's complaint-handling procedure is to have the parties try and resolve matters between them. Datapro's attempt to brush me off was a laugh:

So eventually, somewhere around March, the event wound its way to the ISPA's Complaints Committee who deliberated, and some weeks later, sent me a formal Ruling:

Datapro/Vox Telecom were found guilty of spamming, and fined R100 000 (about EUR10 000 at the time.)

Naturally Datapro appealed this decision, as was their right. Unfortunately the appeals process is quite a slow one, so it was only about 9 June that I was informed of the outcome of the appeals process:

On appeal it was found that Datapro/Vox Telecom were confirmed as being guilty of spamming (through address repurposing.) The fines were, however, reduced to R45 000, most of which has been suspended for 12 months, provided that Datapro/Vox do not spam again within that period of time. Effectively Datapro/Vox have had to pay a paltry R7 500 in fines. Their guilt remains undisputed.

This strikes me as the ISPA having no balls.

The Appeals Committee recomended that Datapro/Vox
...ensure that a working opt-out facility is provided on all marketing emails and to report back to the ISPA complaints administrator within 1 (one) calendar month of receipt of this report on remedial action taken by it. The Appeals Panel recommended (which recommendation is not binding) that such remedial action should also include cleaning its email marketing lists to avoid a repetition of this complaint. This could be achieved by way of a reminder email requesting recipients to confirm their desire to continue receiving such emails (opt in), which is preferable, or by requesting them to indicate their preference not to receive such communications (opt out), which is adequate and then abiding by the indicated preference.
To my knowledge none of this has happened. I have received neither an opt-in request, nor any opportunity to op-out.

The only communication I have had was on 3 June -- 8 days after the Appeal Ruling -- I received yet another marketing spam from Datapro/Vox... still no opt-out link, still no confirmed opt-in. I just have not had the time or energy to follow-up with another complaint of this violation of the suspension conditions imposed by the ISPA on Datapro/Vox.

Further, the ISPA's documentation carries a notice stating
All communication is confidential and may not be distributed.
See http://www.ispa.org.za/commsrules for more info.
so I am effectively barred from making the original PDFs available, despite (or perhaps because of) my having made it clear to the ISPA that it was my firm intention to publish the course of events and all documents.

I am also unable to find any notice, link or reference to this ruling on the ISPA website. Are they too afraid of the potential income-loss should one of their largest spammers members get pissed-off enough to depart the Association?

A pretty sorry indication of the general state of the local ISP industry, I'm afraid.

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