In a fine published on 29 November 2011 OPTA (Independent Post and Telecommunication Authority) made it known that it has fined All4Call for €280.000,=. This company spammed in the form of automated calls in which she tried to sell a lottery. Some thoughts on international cooperation in spam cases as well.
Summer 2008 or 9
My son picked up the phone while there were a lot of people in the room. It became quite clear to me that he was getting confused about the message of the caller. After a while he gave the phone to me. O.k., I thought, this is a tape. I didn’t ask to be called, so a violation of article 11.7 Telecommunication Act. There was no number in the display and someone was telling me about money that would automatically be transferred from my bank account on behalf of the (unnamed) lottery organisation.
Because I hadn’t heard the start and my son couldn’t remember anything I had nothing to complain on. On Monday at work it was apparent quite soon that I was not the only one having been called that weekend.
In one of the many international anti-spam meetings I attended through the years, my (now ex) Austrian, German and Swiss colleagues told me about the lottery calls in their respective countries and that they couldn’t do anything about it.
The privacy laws in their countries is so strict that they favour spammers and fraudsters. The anti-spam authorities are not able to make information requests, e.g. to telecom companies or banks, as far as privacy sensitive data is concerned and cannot make a purchase as to follow the money. So only spammers that give their name, address and number can be investigated.
From a historical point of view these strict privacy laws may be understandable, but may also be crippling to society.
It’s unknown to me whether this is a one-on-one. Only that the technique used was the same my ex-colleagues had told me about. There could be a link though and some people abroad may be worrying for the first time.
Through perseverance OPTA managed to get enough information from other countries to be able to fine All4Call. (And special compliments go out here to someone who would not give up!)
This is however mostly because the company involved is located in the Netherlands. Had this not been the case it’s likely that OPTA had decided to leave the complaints for what they were. There is a reason for this.
Cross border aspects
The response from or chance of a successful follow up in other EU countries often does not justify the effort of an investigation at OPTA. A matter of setting priorities. This may change if and when the Consumer Protection Network’s referral programme starts yielding the desired results.
The right investigative tools
OPTA has shown once again that it is possible to tackle a cross border spam case with dedication and the right tools to investigate.
In my opinion the tools OPTA can investigate with ought to be part of a best practice program activated at the EU level.
And the foreign counterparts in the scam?
Now we have to wait whether the case will be referred to other countries, where the involvement of the foreign counterparts is concerned and whether this will lead to desired results. It may well be that the people behind the content of the calls are at this line of spam and scams for many a year. Let’s hope that OPTA has something to celebrate at a later stage also when news from other countries comes in. A joint presentation in a year time with several EU enforcement agencies at LAP/CNSA would be a great result!
Wout de Natris, De Natris Consult
Leiderdorp, 29 November 2011