EU Warns Members to Enact Spam Laws

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Despite the European Union's directive outlawing unsolicited commercial e-mail taking effect Oct. 31, more than half of EU member states have yet to enact the measure into law.

The European Commission sent warning letters to Belgium, Germany, Greece, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Finland and Sweden requesting that they enact anti-spam laws, as called for in the wide-ranging privacy directive, or face penalties.

The countries have two months to respond. If they fail to comply, the Commission is required under EU law to refer the matter to the EU Court of Justice, which may impose fines.

The privacy directive, originally published in July 2002, requires EU states to enact national laws that effectively ban unsolicited e-mail marketing without consumer consent or, in some cases, a prior business relationship. The EU rules cover e-mail, faxes, automated calling systems and mobile messaging. It also bans using deception in sending messages and requires a valid opt-out address. The directive leaves it to national governments to determine enforcement, but it requires remedies that allow consumers to claim damages.

"It is urgent that member states adopt a consistent legislative approach to such issues," Erkii Liikanen, the EU commissioner for enterprise and the information society, said in a statement. "This will strengthen consumer confidence in e-commerce and electronic services, which is a prerequisite for sustainable growth in the sector."

Liikanen has stressed the need for international cooperation to combat spam. Some European politicians have criticized the United States, the source of the majority of the world's spam, for enacting laxer legislation that does not ban unsolicited commercial e-mail. Australia's parliament passed spam legislation last week along the lines of the EU's.

The need for international cooperation to combat spam is an agenda item at this week's United Nations-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva. The meeting is expected to draw representatives from 60 countries and more than 5,000 attendees representing consumer groups, businesses and governments.


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