The European Commission informed eight member countries that they face stiff penalties if they do not act on the European Union's anti-spam directive, which took effect five months ago.
The EC last week took the second step in the EU's infringement process, sending non-compliance opinions to Belgium, Germany, Greece, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Finland. The states have two months to explain why they have not put into place national laws that comply with the sweeping privacy directive the EU agreed to in July 2002.
If the EC is unsatisfied with the replies, it will refer the matter to the European Court of Justice, which can order a state to comply or face substantial fines.
The directive 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 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 let consumers claim damages.
“We are determined to keep up the pressure on those member states that have yet to implement the legislation they signed up for in 2002,” Erkki Liikanen, the EU commissioner for enterprise and the information society, said in a statement.
When the EU directive went into force Oct. 31, 2003, just six of the EU's 15 states had enacted the necessary laws. Since then, Sweden has complied.