Spam surge 'turning Britain into e-pariah'

Criticism of the UK's spam laws is growing nearly as quickly as the problem of junk mail itself

The government's failure to give businesses protection from unsolicited commercial email risks turning the UK into an Internet outcast, according to one of its political opponents.

Michael Fabricant, the shadow minister for economic affairs, claimed this week that Britain's anti-spam laws need to be strengthened, given the continued rise in the amount of junk mail being received by email users.

"I believe that this legislation needs to be looked at again if Britain isn't to become a pariah nation amongst the global e-community," said Fabricant in a statement that largely repeated a speech he gave earlier this year.

MessageLabs reported this week that spam now makes up almost 70 percent of all mail sent worldwide, indicating that the problem is getting worse. In January it was reported that Britain had become one of the top ten countries responsible for sending spam.

The government brought in legislation last year that made it illegal to send unsolicited commercial mail to a personal email account, but which gave no protection to business accounts.

This decision has been heavily criticised by experts. As ZDNet UK reported last month, it's unlikely that any suspected spammer will face prosecution this year, due to the limited powers that have been given to the Information Commissioner, who is enforcing the law.

Government officials recently met with the Office of the Information Commissioner to discuss whether the law should be tightened up.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Information Commissioner said on Friday that these discussions were ongoing with "nothing promised either way".