Yahoo said unsolicited e-mail, which costs European companies around £1.5bn a year, according to Ferris Research, will exceed legitimate e-mail this summer unless action is taken now.
The Dump The Junk Day initiative, which is designed to educate UK residents about spam via their rubbish, using branded dustbin lorries, binmen, bins and bags, was welcomed by e-commerce minister Stephen Timms.
"The privacy and electronic communications directive aims to crack down on unwanted e-mails and give control back to the consumer,” he said.
“But regulation is only part of the solution. Technology has an important role to play and it is essential that we educate users on how to stop their inbox clogging up with unwanted e-mails. I applaud initiatives such as Yahoo's Dump the Junk Day that aim to do just that.”
Dump The Junk Day follows the release of a Yahoo European survey, which revealed that:
94% of Brits surveyed find junk mail hugely annoying, but most do not know the best ways to tackle it
56% of Britons are unwittingly perpetuating the cycle of spam by replying to junk mail. Spammers often trap the public and confirm e-mail addresses are real by offering fake clauses to opt-out of a mailing list
More than 25% of people had been fooled into opening junk mail believing it to be genuine communication
Only 2% of British internet surfers have made a purchase in response to junk mail. However, if a junkmailer sells herbal Viagra for £30, pays £1,000 for a list of 100,000 email addresses and gets a 2% response rate, s/he will earn £60,000.
John Webb, head of Yahoo Mail in the UK, said, "Our research shows that many British internet surfers do not have the knowledge to tackle junk mail effectively with over half of Britons actually helping to perpetuate the junk mail cycle.
"This lack of know-how and the feeling of junk mail fatigue in the UK has inspired us to help educate the public and businesses. We don't want to be in a situation where the number of junk mails sent overtakes solicited e-mails."
As part of Dump The Junk Day, Yahoo! has set up an e-mail address – [email protected] - to encourage people to name and shame people who perpetuate spam.
It has also developed a series of tips for internet users and businesses on avoiding the pitfalls of spam, at www.yahoo.co.uk/emailmasterclass