Discussion Papers

Franz Büllingen, Annette Hillebrand, Peter Stamm

Transaktionskosten der Nutzung des Internet durch Missbrauch (Spamming) und Regulierungsmöglichkeiten

Nr. 272 / Januar 2006


Unrequested mass mailings are characterized by being sent via phone, as well as by fax, mail and particularly via e-mail. In contrast serious electronic direct marketing represents an important branch of the advertising industry. In 2003 1.9 billion euros were spent on this kind of promotion. It has to be taken into account that in future this type of advertising will still be of growing interest for the advertising industry. Today spamming constitutes up to 80 per cent of all outgoing e-mails. This means a spam quantity of approximately 48 billion occurs worldwide per day in 2005. The largest deal of spam is originated from the USA and South-Korea. Only around two per cent of spam is being sent from Germany. This fact opposes seriously against criminal prosecution of spamming by national authorities.

One kind of misuse associated with serious disadvantages for users is spamming by phone. Based on the Telecommunications Law (TKG) and the Law for Value Added Services (Mehrwertdienste-Gesetz), the German regulatory authority BNetzA is authorised to act against misuse. However different means of sanctions are not sufficient for displaying deterrent effects on spamming. On national level, laws and regulatory measures were taken, which implement the corresponding EU guidelines. This includes the amendment of the Law Against Unfair Competition (UWG) in Germany. In order to fight spamming by phone effectively, the Law for Value Added Services was passed. These measures are supplemented by self-regulative initiatives of associations such as "Complain Hotlines" of different associations like Eco, VZBV and WBZ, the introduction of white lists (Certified Senders Alliance on behalf of a Code of Conduct) as well as by the so called "Aktionsbündnis gegen Spam".

Due to the marginal costs of dispatching mass e-mails, high incentives stimulate the misuse of the medium. So the decline of mass spam hardly will be seen. With e-mail spam 0.02 customers per 1.000 placing an order with a value of 50 euros on average will be already sufficient in order to achieve the break-even. Therefore transaction costs of spam and any other forms of unrequested mass mailings have increased substantially. Most experts are convinced that there is strong need for action on national and international level.

Meanwhile a large number of actors and political initiatives have given mind to spamming problems. Taking action on political, legal, and social levels these initiatives try to preserve the availability and functionality of the e-mailing system in order to reduce costs for ISPs and users. At the same time some of these actors try to keep up the internet as an important medium of direct marketing. This means that the reduction of spamming is difficult and only feasible by interacting counteractive measures on different levels.

This includes international co-operation and co-ordination as well as regulatory activities on the national level, self-regulation of branch actors, technical measures and an intensified dialog with Internet users. [Full text available in German only]

Diskussion Paper is available for download.

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