The civil liberties committee led the debate on the proposed directive on data protection in telecommunication, a debate instigated by the European Commission.
It proposed overturning the opt-in clause called for by the Commission that would effectively prohibit unsolicited e-mail.
Opting in to a company's mailing list requires an affirmative, physical act on the part of the potential recipient of the spam. With the opt-out approach, the company assumes you will choose to sign up, and you have to click a box to remove yourself from the list.
However, attempts to persuade the full assembly of parliamentarians to switch away from opt-in to a more lenient opt-out approach failed. Instead, 259 officials voted in favour of an opt-in amendment, with 210 against and six abstentions.
Rather than agree on the opt-in approach, however, the parliament decided to return the whole dossier to the civil liberties committee for re-examination. "There was no final vote," a spokeswoman said.
"This first reading of the directive will have to be repeated, probably in around three months."