DoCoMo fights back against spammers

NTT DoCoMo Inc. hopes to help users of its i-Mode wireless Internet service stop junk e-mails, commonly known as spam, by dragging junk e-mail senders, or spammers, into court, the company announced on Monday.

The company is also taking steps to reduce the cost of receiving e-mails, including spam, by offering i-Mode users 400 free packets of data per month.

To date, DoCoMo has tracked down up to 30 individuals who have sent spam to i-Mode users and is seeking a court order to force them to stop sending spam through the i-Mode system.

"We are hoping to argue that they are disrupting our business and violating property rights protected by the Constitution (of Japan)," said Keiichi Enoki, a director of Gateway Business Department of DoCoMo.

DoCoMo is hoping for a repeat of a legal victory by Nifty Corp., said Enoki, referring to a Japanese Internet service provider that succeeded in stopping a spammer with a court order.

Since March, DoCoMo has received complaints from more than 100,000 i-Mode users regarding spam from malicious Web site operators. Spammers are able to easily target i-Mode users as the default e-mail addresses of i-Mode users are the same as their phone numbers. Unless a user changes their e-mail address to something more original, they will typically receive several spam messages each day. As i-Mode charges users a fee for each e-mail that is received, users end up paying for all of this spam. In an effort to reduce the cost of spam mail, DoCoMo plans to offer i-Mode users up to 400 packets of free data every month, amounting to a discount of around 120 yen (US$0.97) per month for each user.

"On average, each e-mail sent via i-Mode needs around 4 packets, which can hold 100 words," said Enoki. "We calculated that 400 packets would allow users to send and receive about 100 e-mails a month for free."

DoCoMo also plans to start offering free wireless access to its "i-Menu" feature, which allows users to change their i-Mode e-mail addresses and block e-mails from certain senders.

Both of these measures will take effect from August 1 and, as a result, the company expects to see revenue drop 27 billion yen by the end of its 2001 fiscal year, according to DoCoMo.

"This started as a measure to prevent spam but it is actually a new price reduction on our service. We will offer these free charges permanently," said Enoki.

Even without the need to confront the spam problem, "the company was (heading) in a direction of lowering prices for its services in this competitive market," said Enoki.

On the same day that DoCoMo announced it would offer 400 free data packets to users every month, rival carrier J-Phone Communications Co. Ltd., which offers inexpensive wireless data services targeted at young users, announced it plans to reduce prices on its services effective July 1, answering a price reduction implemented by DoCoMo on June 1.

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