Brussels starts meting out spam laws

Member states will decide on electronic junkmail...
Written by Heather McLean, Contributor

Member states will decide on electronic junkmail...

The European Parliament has decided that member states can opt whether to allow spamming over electronic devices as a default in their own countries, avoiding a blanket ban on the practice. The ruling gives member states two options, to opt-in, allowing the consumer the right to accept direct mail beforehand, or opt-out which means the consumer has to chose to unsubscribe from direct marketing lists. The opt-in option is unpopular with marketeers because it poses problems for legitimate direct marketing companies, while spammers will be undeterred by the letter of the law. Francois Lavaste, VP for Europe of anti-spam software developer Brightmail, said: "This is going to make life difficult for direct marketers as they will have to apply different rules to different EU states." He added: "Most spammers won't care about legislation as they are unscrupulous people." Brightmail believes 90 per cent of spam comes from illegitimate companies who rely on consumers opting to unsubscribe from unsolicited mail to prove that those email addresses actually exist, which are then sold on to other spamming companies. Lavaste said: "A spammer's typical tool is a fake unsubscribe. If [European member] states go for the opt-out choice, people that unsubscribe will typically be spammed even more." Marketing companies outside the EU will not be affected by individual state decisions on whether to spam or not to spam. James Fry, a lawyer with Eversheds, said: "This decision to allow member states to opt in or out is a backwards step. The proposals do not catch non-EU marketers which puts direct marketers established in the EU at a disadvantage and does not protect European consumers."
Editorial standards