EU to crackdown on junk mail
By Marit Ruuda
An 'Inbox' full to the brim of junk e-mail offering everything under the sun could be a thing of the past under new plans by enterprise commissioner Erkki Liikanen.
Speaking today (15 July), the Commissioner outlined a plan to make illegal all unsolicited commercial e-mails - otherwise known as 'spam'.
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By the end of October this year, all EU member states must have transposed a 'ban on spam' into their national legislation.
The Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications, prohibiting junk mail has already been agreed by the Council and the European Parliament since last year.
In June this year, up to 48% of global e-mail traffic was spam - in 2001 it was only 7%. It is this huge and quick growth that has made the Commission act. The Commission also estimates that about 30% of e-mails coming from outside the EU are spam.
Annoying and time-consuming
"The growth of spam is very worrying. It is expected that spam will grow to more than 50% of global e-mail traffic before the summer is over", said Mr Liikanen on Tuesday.
Spam is a problem for all of us as individuals, the Commissioner added. It is not only about privacy reasons that action must be taken, but also because it is "very annoying, time-consuming, and indeed, money-consuming".
The Commission is ready to combat spam on all fronts: on the legal and technical side as well as the social and educational front. One of the biggest consequences of junk mail is that it undermines user confidence, which is crucial for successful e-commerce or e-services, says the enterprise commissioner.
International co-operation needed
Under the new legislation, e-mail marketing is only allowed with prior consent, it also covers SMS messages and other electronic messages received on mobile telephones or fixed terminals.
Member states can also ban unsolicited commercial e-mails to businesses, who, it is estimated, lost up to 2.5 billion euros in productivity in 2002 as employees spend longer and longer clearing out their mailboxes.
Most of the spam comes from outside the EU, therefore international co-operation is a key element, said Mr Liikanen. During his visit to the US in June, the Commissioner stressed the need for a global approach, as it is a global problem.