The European Commission today fleshed out plans to fight spam.
Member States must implement the EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications by putting a 'ban on spam' into national legislation before the end of October, 2003.
With a limited exception covering existing customer relationships, this directive states that email marketing is allowed only with prior consent. This 'opt-in' regime covers both email and SMS messages received on any mobile or fixed terminal. Member States can also ban unsolicited commercial e-mails to businesses.
As a second step, the European Commission expects a Communication on spam to be adopted in the Autumn. Action is to focus on "effective enforcement, notably through international co-operation, technical measures for countering spam, and consumer awareness," it says.
The proposed measures are to be tested first with Member States and interested parties through a workshop to be convened in October. Prior to this meeting, the Commission will be working together with data protection authorities from the Member States in developing policy.
It is estimated that before the end of the summer, more than 50 percent of global email traffic will be spam. As well as a complete waste of time, spam can cost companies money in wasted employee productivity and misused computer resources. The EU cites estimates that spam cost EU-based businesses up to € 2.5 billion in 2002, in the form of lost productivity and misused computer resources.
The EU was a first mover on the legal front by adopting in July 2002 a Directive ((Article 13 of Directive 2002/58/EC on Privacy and Electronic Communications) that will lead to a pan-European 'ban on spam' to individuals by October 2003 at the latest.
Other actions outlined by the EU today address the various legal, technical and educational facets of spam. Member States, industry and consumers are all expected to contribute to an effective implementation: measures include enforcement by public authorities, co-operation within industry (filtering, codes of conduct), consumer (and industry) awareness, as well as bilateral and multilateral international co-operation.
Since most spam comes from outside the EU, international co-operation is a key element of the Commission's response. During a visit to the US Federal Trade Commission in June, EU Commissioner Erkki Liikanen stressed the need for a global approach to what is a global problem.
Commissioner Liikanen offered today to host an OECD workshop on spam early in 2004 to bring together experts from the different regions of the world. The EU has also asked that the issue of international co-operation in the fight against spam be included in the Action Plan to be agreed at the forthcoming World Summit on The Information Society to be held in Geneva on 10-12 December this year, in order to focus political attention on the mounting problem. ®