A Danish court fined a local telecomm equipment firm a record $67,990 on Wednesday for sending up to 1,500 unsolicited e-mails, a rare conviction against a peddler of what is commonly called spam.
"We are very pleased with the judgement, which we expect will have a preventive effect on the practice of sending unsolicited e-mails to both private consumers and companies," Jane Frederikke Land, the prosecutor conducting the case on behalf of Denmark's National Consumer Agency said.
The consumer ombudsman brought the case against Aircom Erhverv ApS, saying the practice of sending unsolicited e-mails intended to market goods or services to the recipient was an infringement of Denmark's law on marketing practices.
Land said the ruling created a precedent in Danish law, and emphasized that the law also protects Danish consumers and companies against spam from sources outside the Nordic country.
Denmark is one of six European Union states to have implemented a European Commission directive on privacy and electronic communications that calls for stiff sanctions against firms who send torrents of e-mail marketing messages, nicknamed for the bland, processed meat product made mostly from ham.
Waves of unsolicited e-mails which promise the recipient schemes for quick riches, a better sex life and endless products from vibrators to vacuum cleaners are a daily annoyance to most people who have an e-mail address. Industry estimates say spam accounts for at least half of all e-mails sent, triggering a global clampdown from politicians and the business community. As of today, infringements of the Danish law involving even one unsolicited email and up to 100 could result in a minimum fine of 10,000 crowns and a fine of 100 crowns for every e-mail beyond 100.
This is the second case of its kind in Denmark. In the first in May 2003, a company was fined $2,545.64 for 153 spam e-mails, often said to have been nicknamed after a skit by the British comedy troupe Monty Python's Flying Circus in which the actors dressed as Vikings annoy fellow diners in a restaurant by chanting: "spam, spam, spam" over and over.
Austria, Ireland, Italy, Britain and Spain have also implemented the EU Commission directive aimed at avoiding the widespread use of so-called spam e-mail.