updated 4/1/2004 2:32:18 PM ET 2004-04-01T19:32:18

The European Union ordered eight countries Thursday to enact privacy legislation governing "spam" e-mail and Internet "cookies."

It was the second warning sent to the countries, which have two months to comply or face lawsuits before the European Court of Justice.

Since the initial warning was sent last November, Sweden has enacted the legislation, but Belgium, Germany, Greece, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Finland have not.

"We are determined to keep up the pressure," EU Commissioner Erkki Liikanen said. "The directive is vital to ensure action can be taken and enforced at a national level in the fight against spam."

Last July, the EU adopted a tough privacy regulation on electronic communications. It bans all commercial e-mail unless a recipient has asked for it. The regulation also sets strict rules for installing Internet "cookies," which hook a computer into a Web site.

However, the regulation must be approved by each national parliament to become effective.

The EU's difficulty enforcing its own regulations could undercut attempts to get other countries to join the fight against spam.

About 53 percent of all e-mail in the 15-nation EU is unsolicited commercial bulk e-mail, according to statistics published by Brightmail Inc., an anti-spam technology company. About 80 percent of spam is believed to come from North America.

Under U.S. law, no prior permission is required for sending commercial messages as long as the recipient is given a chance to "opt out" of receiving future messages from the same sender.

The EU has called on the 30-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to step up international efforts to curb spam.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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