UKFast. "Your future is our business"
They sent me a spam email from "Mia Anderson"; the spam was in html (and my mail reader doesn't do html, to avoid security problems), but I was able to get the gist of it. They're giving me their free reports on Cloud Hosting and suchlike. The spam was sent to the same email address that the Royal Henley Regatta spam went to. My guess is that someone, at some time in the past, used the WHOIS service to harvest the email addresses that are the contact point for domain names, and is now selling that list. Or sold it to someone who is now selling it. Or there's several generations of resellers of this.
I know it's spam, because I don't give out that email address. The only place it exists, is on WHOIS.
Should I read these reports? Given that they came from a spammer, I think the answer is no. It would involve visiting a web site that I don't know, and there could be malicious software on that server - remember, the invitation came from a spammer, which immediately gives them a poor reputation in most people's eyes. Plus, I'm not really interested in the subject of the report. Plus, I don't want to buy anything from a spammer.
So I phoned them up on 0208 045 4945 (I got that from their web site), and asked to speak the the Marketing Director. Jennifer, the nice lady who answered the telephone gave me a lot of questions about why I wanted to speak to him, which I answered as best I could, but after a while, I got a bit fed up with the unlimited questions that she was asking, gave her my phone number, explained that I'm sure that they already had as many customers as they could possibly want, but if they had a few moments to spare out of their busy day, they could call me. And she said she'd get Sales to call me back, and was that what I wanted? So I explained, no, I want to talk to the Marketing Director, but it's entirely up to him whether he wants to talk to me, and you have my phone number, and I don't want to waste your time and mine, and I indicated that I wanted to end this phone call.
I then emailed Lawrence Jones, CEO of UKFast to tell him that his company is spamming. From looking at his details and his blog, he's clearly a Big Cheese (in the nicest possible sense), or at least regards himself as a big cheese, and I felt sure that he'd want to know that his company is spamming.
We'll see if he calls back. It's 1 pm now.
... 4pm. They called me back. It seems that my message to Lawrence Jones reached him, and I was called back by Jennifer. She's been told that they aren't sending out spam, I explained to her that she'd been misinformed. She said that her technical people told her that they weren't spamming, I told her that they were mistaken. She wanted to know the email address that had received the spam, I told her that the issue wasn't one of getting that address off their spamming list, the issue is to get them to recognise that they're spamming, and to stop doing it. She said that from the number she'd called me, she couldn't put me through to Mr Jones. Or to the technical people. Or anyone else. So I suggested that she get someone to call me. Preferably Mr Jones. And I explained to her that spamming is an offence against the Privacy in Electronic Communication 2003 Regulation, but that I'd much rather deal with this matter between UKFast and myself, rather than get the authorities involved. We parted on good terms, she'd try to get someone to phone me.
Here's the regulation:
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.
So, who would be "the authorities" in this instance?
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.
4:40 pm While I was on their web site, a chat-box popped up, so I had a web-chat conversation with one of their techies (Alex Law), and I explained the situation to him. Shortly after that (and I think on account of that chat) I was called by their Director of Communications, Jonathan Bowers. We had a nice discussion, in which I relieved him of the idea that I was just trying to get taken off their spamming list, and explained to him about the danger to their organisation of becoming known as a spammer, which would probably happen if they continued spamming. And I told him about the PEC 2003 regulation, and that my objective was to awaken them to the fact that they are probably in contravention of it. He said that they might have bought in a list of email addresses (he wasn't sure), and asked if that was against the law? My opinion in that is that buying the list isn't against the law, but using it would be, if in doing so he contravenes PEC 2003. He was concerned that I might be about to "spash this all over the internet", but I explained to him that the act of spamming is what will tell people being spammed that UKFast are spamming.
He also queried whether the email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) that I'd given when emailing Lawrence Jones was real. It's not the first time that people have questioned whether anyone can really have the email address email@example.com. I don't actually understand why that looks like it can't exist. But it does. People who know that my name is "Dr Solomon" can probably work out where it came from. And, of course, UKFast know that, because I told them when I sent the email to their CEO Mr Jones.
5:10 I got another phone call from Jonathan Bowers. He'd spoken to their legal team, and they were aware of PEC 2003, and they buy their email address lists from three companies, all of who claim to be compliant with PEC 2003.
I don't actually see how that's possible. How can a person reselling a list, know whether or not it meets 3a above?
So the next step is, he's going to find out who sold them the list with that email address on. And, of course, I can expect to get no more spam from UKFast. At least, no more on that particular email address. I do, of course, have umpteen other addresses. And they'll be taking up the issue with the people who sold them that list.
Another good result, I think.