Spam (warning - I'll be ranting again!)

Posted on Thu 04 May 2006 in Spam wars

I hate spam. I don't mind companies making genuine attempts to sell us things, researching us using our website and contacting us by email, phone or fax (I even have a page on our web site just for that reason). However, I get really annoyed when they make up email address and bounce them off the server to see if they work or not. If they do they then send email by the bucket load that is completely irrelevant to the email address in question.

Today, I received yet more spam from a company called Eden Communications (25 High Street, Edenbridge, Kent, TN8 5AB Tel: 01732 865 313 sales@edencomms.co.uk although they didn't include their real email address in the spam). Being a localish company I decided to call them and ask them why they are sending so much spam to me (and my wife, and an employee that no longer works for me, and an email address that related to a specific product on our website.. you get the picture). Their answer was that "they send them through another company and are told the list is only people who have provided their email address and want to receive them". I asked if they ever saw the list of email address they were sending things too and the answer was "no". I suggested they ask to see it so they would see it's obvious the list is not genuine, then stop using that company. Their answer was "no" [pause in stunned silence] "We get a lot of business from it and very few complaints" he said.

Well, there you go. Eden Communications feel it is perfectly acceptable to send spam to because they get lots of business from it. I originally thought they had made a mistake (we are all human after all) and hadn't meant to pay a company to send spam on their behalf. Many companies have made that mistake (even the big ones from time to time) and I would say it's not unreasonable for the non technical internet user to believe the claims of a company that all the addresses in the list they are paying for have agreed to receive email advertisements.

I've just looked up the regulations on the internet:

Statutory Instrument 2003 No. 2426 -The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003

Use of electronic mail for direct marketing purposes

22. - (1) This regulation applies to the transmission of unsolicited communications by means of electronic mail to individual subscribers.

(2) Except in the circumstances referred to in paragraph (3), a person shall neither transmit, nor instigate the transmission of, unsolicited communications for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail unless the recipient of the electronic mail has previously notified the sender that he consents for the time being to such communications being sent by, or at the instigation of, the sender.

(3) A person may send or instigate the sending of electronic mail for the purposes of direct marketing where -

(a) that person has obtained the contact details of the recipient of that electronic mail in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service to that recipient;

(b) the direct marketing is in respect of that person's similar products and services only; and

(c) the recipient has been given a simple means of refusing (free of charge except for the costs of the transmission of the refusal) the use of his contact details for the purposes of such direct marketing, at the time that the details were initially collected, and, where he did not initially refuse the use of the details, at the time of each subsequent communication.

(4) A subscriber shall not permit his line to be used in contravention of paragraph (2).

[and skipping a bit...]

Proceedings for compensation for failure to comply with requirements of the Regulations
30. - (1) A person who suffers damage by reason of any contravention of any of the requirements of these Regulations by any other person shall be entitled to bring proceedings for compensation from that other person for that damage.

(2) In proceedings brought against a person by virtue of this regulation it shall be a defence to prove that he had taken such care as in all the circumstances was reasonably required to comply with the relevant requirement.

(3) The provisions of this regulation are without prejudice to those of regulation 31.

[and skipping another bit...]

Request that the Commissioner exercise his enforcement functions
32. Where it is alleged that there has been a contravention of any of the requirements of these Regulations either OFCOM or a person aggrieved by the alleged contravention may request the Commissioner to exercise his enforcement functions in respect of that contravention, but those functions shall be exercisable by the Commissioner whether or not he has been so requested.

Now I have the regulations in front of me, I'm going to phone them and ask for their comment again....
OK, the person I spoke to (possibly Tony?) is busy at the moment. I left my name and number and made it clear to the receptionist why I was phoning. I hope he phones back. If he does I'll let you know anything else he says.

While we're waiting and I'm still eating my lunch, let's see what else we can find out about this spam. It claims to be from a domain "mail-2204vf49.co.uk" - doesn't exactly slip off the tongue. I wonder who owns it? Fortunately the registry is published at http://www.nic.uk which reports:

Domain name:
mail-2204vf49.co.uk

Registrant:
Tony Slater

Registrant type:
UK Individual

Registrant's address:
The registrant is a non-trading individual who has opted to have their address omitted from the WHOIS service.

Registrant's agent:
PIPEX Communications Hosting Ltd t/a 123-Reg.co.uk [Tag = 123-REG]
URL: http://www.123-reg.co.uk

Relevant dates:
Registered on: 10-Apr-2006
Renewal date: 10-Apr-2008

That's interesting. The name is registered as an individual (not a company), my guess is it's not the same Tony as at Eden Comms though (I'll see if I can find out later). It was registered very recently. That bit doesn't surprise me. Domain names are cheap and if you are sending spam it will soon get blocked by all the spam filters. The strange name is simply used for this campaign then thrown away. They haven't even changed the 123-reg holding page. Although the individual has withheld their address, there are ways of getting it if you need to.

Now to look for this Tony. Eden Communications doesn't say if it's a limited company on it's web site and the domain is registered simply to "Eden Communications" with no registrant type supplied (Individual, Partnership, Company etc). There are no terms and conditions of sale on it's web site either (they often mention whether the company is a partnership and who they are). Companies House lists an "Eden Communications Limited" as a company in London (just a co-incidence in name I think, not the same company). Looking though the Eden Comms web site for terms I found their 'products' page which says they provide "web design services" and under "email / Internet"

Email & Internet Access
We supply mail server software to provide E-Mail access for all users requiring their own Company E-Mail address.
Internet access can also be provided for designated users.
Other features include virus scanning, firewall security and 'anti-spam' to prevent unwanted E-Mails reaching the Inbox, together with reports providing detailed information on Internet usage.

Haha! That's so funny, they offer anti-spam services and have been sending spam! I like the irony.

Just tried calling them again, 'Tony' is still not available. Perhaps he'll call later.

11th May 2006 - Called again as Tony still had replied. He's not in the office so I left my number once more and the URL of this web site.