A storm of protest is building up against a proposal by Alain Lamassoure, member of the centre-right European People's Party, to introduce a tax on SMS text messages and emails as an alternative source of revenue for the EU budget.
Even though the proposal, which included a tax of 1.5 eurocents on text messages and a 0.00001 cent levy on every email sent, has since been shelved, several online petitions have sprung up, including Keep Email Free.
"We believe that email, in its current untaxed form, has become such a mainstay in our current way of communication that it has become an integral part of our society and the way we do business," the site says.
Keep Email Free hopes to collect 100,000 signatures.
At present, the EU is funded through a combination of import duties, value added tax revenues, and direct contributions from member states. However, the EU believes a new tax system is required.
Lamassoure previously called the proposed tax "peanuts", but said: "Given the billions of transactions every day, this could still raise an immense income."
The proposal immediately raises a lot of practical issues: who would collect the tax, ISPs or mobile operators? And would spammers escape the tax?
However, the speculation may no longer be necessary. Lamassoure issued a statement yesterday in which he suddenly distances his comments from the budget committee, claiming that "any email or SMS tax could not be an EU measure because at present as the EU has no tax raising powers".
"I have no intention of putting these issues on the table," Lamassoure says. ®