UK anti-spam laws move a step closer


28 March 2003 The UK government has begun a consultation exercise on new laws that would give consumers and businesses the right to sue persistant spammers for damages.

The move is the first step in the UK’s implementation of the European Union’s Electronic Communication Data Protection Directive. This mandates the ‘opt-in’ principle for all email and mobile text message marketing within the EU.

Direct marketers had argued for the opt-out principle in which they would have the right to send unsolicited commercial email and text messages to whoever they liked, provided they gave them the right to opt-out.

In addition to having to seek prior permission before sending commercial material, web site operators will also be obliged to inform users about the use of cookies and other tracking techniques.

However, it is unclear whether this will also extend to email. Spammers frequently use HTML and other techniques to determine whether an email has been open — and that an email address is therefore valid.

“Spam has become the curse of the Internet. It is a source of major frustration as it clogs up inboxes all over the world,” Stephen Timms, the UK’s e-commerce minister, told Reuters. “These regulations aim to give control back to the customer. It is vital that people feel safe and confident in using these technologies. Spam must not be allowed to get in the way,” he added.

The moves in Europe mirror the increasingly tough stance being taken by individual states in the US — the source of most of the world’s spam — where some 40% of all email is spam.

A spam fighter’s work is never done (March 2003)
Slicing spam (January 2003)
The EU’s new ‘anti-spam’ directive will impact every business that interacts with customers through email and the web.
Spam with everything (February 2002)
ISPs, corporate networks and staff are being overwhelmed by spam. What can organisations do to combat it?

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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