The guidelines, published by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), do not mention spam by name. But in calling on the organization's 30 member states--which include the United States, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom--to cooperate in the fight against international fraud, they clearly allude to the problem of unsolicited commercial e-mail.
The guidelines suggest that the medium that has exacerbated the international fraud problem could also help solve it.
"To address the speed at which those engaged in fraudulent and deceptive commercial practices can victimize large numbers of consumers, for example, through the Internet, member countries should work together to develop fast, efficient methods for gathering and sharing information," according to the guidelines. "They should build on existing projects to gather and share information, including consumer complaints and notifications of pending investigations and cases, through online tools and databases."
In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) made its own announcement of the guidelines and urged widespread adoption of them. In doing so, it singled out spam and the Web as primary tools of fraudulent international marketing.
"Cross-border fraud, perpetrated through telemarketing, Web sites and spam, harms consumers and consumer confidence in the global marketplace," FTC Commissioner Mozelle W. Thompson, who is chair of the OECD's committee on consumer policy, said in a release. "The OECD guidelines announced today reflect an international commitment by consumer protection law enforcement agencies to work together to combat these schemes."
Like many consumer, industrial and government organizations, the FTC is taking special interest in spam this year. This month, the commissionin combating the onslaught of unsolicited commercial e-mail.
And, like antispam companies and advocacy groups, government agencies and legislative bodies alike are grappling with the international scope of the spam problem., in which it sued alleged spam offenders in the United States and in the United Kingdom, some of whom sent spam from servers in countries such as Belize.
The OECD guidelines promise to make it easier for member governments to collect evidence and practical help from foreign agencies, and to otherwise increase international cooperation in the prosecution of spammers and other cross-border frauds.