EU steps up fight against spam

/ Source: The Associated Press

The European Union head office called for closer coordination Monday among all member governments to hunt down and prosecute those illegally spreading unsolicited e-mails across the 25-nation bloc.

Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner in charge of new media and information society, also announced that "anti-spam enforcement authorities" in 13 EU countries agreed to cooperate in investigating complaints against spammers.

"Enforcement authorities in member states must be able to deal effectively with spam from other EU countries," Reding said in a statement.

The deal reached among the 13 national agencies in charge of combatting unsolicited e-mails is voluntary but "establishes a common procedure for handling cross-border complaints on spam" and closes loopholes "exploited by spammers and data thieves," the Commission said.

Coordination among the 13 agencies from Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands and Spain will be carried out through an existing EU contact network set up last year.

EU laws requiring companies to get consent before sending e-mail, tracking personal data on Web sites or pinpointing callers' locations via satellite-linked mobile phones have been in place since 2003, though some in the 25-nation bloc were slow to enact legislation against spammers.

The anti-spam rules are part of tough privacy regulations adopted in 2003 on electronic communications.

The majority of unsolicited e-mails to Europeans originates from outside the EU.

About 80 percent of all e-mails sent last year were unsolicited commercial bulk e-mail, according to U.S.-based e-mail filtering company MessageLabs, and the vast majority of those e-mails originated in the United States, where for a year national anti-spam laws have been in effect.

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.