Faxes now covered by anti-spam law

announced last week:

From tomorrow (20 October) unsolicited commercial will count as .

The schedule of the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007 has been amended to remove ‘facsimiles’ from the list of exempt electronic messages. This means that an individual or company may no longer send a commercial fax, with a New Zealand link, to a recipient that has not consented to receiving the message.

Internal Affairs, which regulates the Act, has received many inquiries from people receiving unsolicited commercial faxes, since the Act came into force in 2007, but could take no action because faxes were excluded.

I had a hand in the formulation of the anti-spam law. The reason faxes were not included at the time was because the cost of sending them was deemed significant enough to mean that no regulation was needed.

It costs an advertiser actual money to direct mail you, to letterbox drop you or (in the past) to phone/fax you.  The cost of the marketing provided an incentive to only send marketing messages if they made enough money to cover the cost. Hence why you only get 20 or so items of junk mail a week, instead of 2,000.

E-mail though had different economic properties. It cost basically nothing to send, and the recipient effectively pays for it (in time and money). Hence why pretty much every country in the OECD has anti-spam laws. It’s a version of theft.

With more and more telecommunications being done over the Internet, I think it is the right call to include faxes. With VOIP and the like the marginal cost of fax spam is so low that there is little economic deterrent.

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