The European Commission is to take France, Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland and the Netherlands to the European Court of Justice for failing to implement EU laws on the protection of personal computer data.
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If judges find in favour of the commission, the member states will be forced to change their national data protection legislation so that it reflects EU standards.
The countries are accused of failing to comply with the Data Protection Directive, which aims to "ensure both a high level of protection for the privacy of individuals in all member states and the free movement of personal data within the European Union".
The directive also establishes rules to "ensure that personal data is only transferred to countries outside the EU when its continued protection is guaranteed".
A commission report said that citizens in these countries have the right to force their governments to follow the EU rules via applications to national courts.
The report also warned, "Individuals suffering damage as a result of a member state's failure to implement the directive are in some cases entitled to seek compensation before national courts."
It added that the directive was important because it fosters consumer confidence and minimises differences between member states' data protection rules, this in turn facilitates the development of electronic commerce.