Spam plan fails in EU committee

Committee rules that if email users don't want to be drowned under a sea of spam, they will have to ask the spammers to stop
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

The European Parliament is unlikely to announce a ban on unsolicited email, after a committee decided not to approve an "opt-in" junk mail policy. The plan would have meant that users would only be sent unsolicited email, or "spam", if they asked to receive it.

The EU Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs committee was considering plans that would have introduced the "opt-in" spam policy across the whole European Union.

There is currently no consensus across Europe as how junk email should be handled, with individual countries adopting their own policy. In Germany, Austria, Italy, Finland and Denmark it is illegal to send spam to users who have not signed up to receive it. These countries pushed for an opt-in policy to be adopted across the EU, but lost.

Officials from other nations, including the UK, argue that spam is a legitimate business tool.

Rather than voting for the opt-in policy, the committee approved an amendment that will force users to opt-out of receiving spam. The proposal was backed by a Labour MEP, and supported by countries who see unsolicited email as acceptable. "The committee more or less opted for the opt-out provision," an EU spokeswoman confirmed on Wednesday evening.

Countries with an opt-in policy may keep that policy, the EU said.

If opt-out is approved by the European Parliament -- as it is expected to be -- users will have to take action themselves to avoid finding their inboxes filled with "get rich quick" schemes and links to X-rated Web sites. "Senders of junk mail should supply an address to which the recipient can send a request to cease such communications," recommended the committee. "Senders [of unsolicited email] should either ask subscribers for prior consent or abstain from sending these messages to subscribers who have indicated they do not wish to receive such communications, depending on the relevant national legislation."

The UK does not currently have legislation specifically controlling spam. If the opt-out rule goes into effect here, it will mean that UK senders of unsolicited email will for the first time be required to include opt-out information.

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