EC anti-spam law under fire

Business groups have warned that the European Commission's plans to rein-in unsolicited e-mail communications - or spam - have tilted the balance too far towards consumers

Business groups have warned that the European Commission's plans to rein-in unsolicited e-mail communications - or spam - have tilted the balance too far towards consumers.

Last week, a European directive on the processing of personal data effectively overturned a previous European e-commerce directive. Under the proposed law, only users who "opt-in" will get junk communications.

However, direct marketers and business groups, including the employers' body the CBI, have vowed to lobby to get the proposals reversed.

A CBI spokesman said the proposals had gone too far, and would satisfy no-one. A spokeswoman for the Direct Marketing Association said the proposal had emerged without taking into account the previous e-commerce directive's position and, as a result, was incompatible with it.

The new directive, which will still take about a year to be implemented, would give consumers the choice of "opting in" to the provision of personal data with their consent. Otherwise, they would not have given their authorisation to receive data.

According to article 13 of the new directive, member states "shall take appropriate measures to ensure that unsolicited communications are not allowed without the consent of the subscribers concerned". The business groups insist such a position is unworkable.

The new position conflicts with the proposals in the existing e-commerce directive, which are more "business-friendly" and give the consumer the choice of "opting out" from receiving unsolicited data.

The latest commission move follows numerous worldwide attempts to prevent spamming, which have been largely unsuccessful.

Earlier this year, a Washington State judge declared that spam enjoyed the same degree of legal protection as junk mail, and threw out an anti-spam law that banned commercial e-mails containing misleading information, either in the message or the message's transmission path.

A new Bill, the Unsolicited Electronic E-mail Act, is currently working its way through Congress and, last month, gained US House Commerce committee approval.

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