The enacting on Friday of the first phase of legislation against electronic spam is a welcome effort to curb an intrusion into our lives that costs time and money. As worthy as the law may be, however, the nature of technology is such that this must be the first step in a process that the government must regularly review. There are, after all, significant gaps in the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Bill. While the reasoning for leaving some of them unplugged has been convincingly argued, this is no reason to treat this law as being the final step in the fight against spam. Legislation involving spam e-mails, text messages, pre-recorded calls, faxes and video and audio messages, needs closer attention than other laws. The constant evolution of technology means that what is problematic today may become an even worse scourge tomorrow. This is the dilemma that has left the matter of spam e-mail virtually untouched in the new law. While complaints can be made to the Office of the Telecommunications Authority and action taken if they originate in Hong Kong, those from elsewhere - the vast majority - are beyond authorities' reach. Text messages sent to mobile telephones, faxes and electronic voice advertising are covered by the new law, however; as the sender can be more readily identified and they generally come from within Hong Kong, investigating, apprehending, taking legal action and policing can be carried out with relative ease. Concern for the livelihoods of the tens of thousands of people employed locally by the telemarketing industry has meant that cold calls from agents have been excluded from the law. Person-to-person telephone sales are valued by the government at HK$7.2 billion, an amount considered by officials to be more important than the annoyance they give to those who do not want to receive such calls. Those wishing not to receive spam electronic text and voice messages can register their phone numbers with the telecommunications office. Penalties will then apply to companies that ignore the list, which will be available when the second phase starts later this year. This, however, will not apply with cold calls. Such is not the case in many other jurisdictions in developed parts of the world, where person-to-person telemarketers who ignore the rules are handed stiff penalties. This has been the most debated part of the bill and one that needs the closest attention. If anti-spam legislation is to be truly effective, it has to be all-inclusive and if cold calls prompt a sizeable level of complaints, there can be no reason for the exemption. As technology evolves, ways may be found to more effectively police spam e-mails and the law should then be revisited to close the loophole. But developments may also mean that unscrupulous marketers find ways around the legislation or other means to get their unwanted advertising out, and such circumstances will also have to be watched out for. Electronic marketing is a legitimate form of doing business and there is no reason why it should not continue to be so. Mobile phones, the internet and better telecommunications have made this an effective and inexpensive way of disseminating information about products and services. The new law does not prevent this, but aims to ensure that companies abide by the rules so as not to inconvenience those not interested in receiving such advertising. To ensure the legislation is as effective as possible, lawmakers must closely monitor its effectiveness and take prompt action when necessary.