Recently, the Knesset approved a private bill that expands the scope of the “Spam Law.” The amendment will be coming into force once published in the official gazette.
The current language of the law prohibits the transmission of an advertisement via facsimile, robo-call systems, email, or SMS without receiving the express consent of the addressee in advance (opting in) – except in circumstances explicitly allowed under that same section of the law. An “advertisement” is defined as “a message disseminated commercially with the objective of persuading the recipient to purchase a product or service, or to otherwise encourage a financial expenditure, as well as any message that is disseminated to the general public with the objective of requesting a donation or propaganda.”
The amendment is aimed at preventing the phenomenon whereby messages not necessarily commercial in nature are being sent to the general public, mainly through a robo-call system. These messages usually contain partial details of news or gossip with the objective of prompting the recipient to dial the number specified in said messages, all considering that any such return call constitutes a revenue generator for the sender of the message.
Accordingly, the prohibition on transmitting an advertisement is extended so that the transmission of messages soliciting the recipient to call back the sender – regardless of whether or not the messages are commercial in nature – will also require the addressee’s express prior consent. For this purpose, the amendment expands the definition of an “advertisement” in the law, so that it also includes any message disseminated to the general public that solicits the recipient to call a particular telephone number in order to receive some message.
We note in this context that the prohibition excludes messages from the State and its institutions, in the broad sense of the word, including the courts, National Security Institute, the water companies and messages from the police and emergency services in the course of the fulfillment of their roles.
The amendment also addresses another related phenomenon: advertisers that call people using a robo-call system and hang up before the call is answered, in order to cause the recipients to call that number back, and then play their advertisement or message. Despite the fact that, according to the Ministry of Communications’ reasoning, this type of tactic is already prohibited according to the current language of the law, in order to dispel any doubt, and because this phenomenon is quite prevalent, the amendment expressly prescribe that calling a person using an robo-call system, without receiving that person’s express prior written consent, is prohibited. This will apply even if the call is disconnected before the call is answered, or if the advertisement is transmitted when the person calls back the number of the disconnected call.
This amendment constitutes another measure designed to tighten the regulations protecting consumer privacy. Initially, the law imposed a prohibition on the sending of unsolicited advertisements. Later, the prohibition was extended to also include the sending of messages relating to donations and propaganda. Now, with the amendment, nearly every message sent using a robo-call system will be prohibited, unless the sender receives the recipient’s consent.
It is important to keep in mind that the Law prescribes a list of civil and criminal sanctions, including compensation of up to NIS 1,000—without proof of damages—for every advertisement sent in violation of the law’s provisions. We examined court cases and found that in spam lawsuits filed with various courts, judges tended to rule in favor of plaintiffs. Therefore, at issue is not a negligible legal risk.
We recommend verifying that your company’s marketing systems are operating in compliance with the provisions of the Law regarding the dissemination of advertisements.