The United Kingdom and other European member states need to do more to tackle spam, and should start by taking a more coordinated approach to the problem, according to the European Commission.
A European Commission study, published last week, stated that in the United Kingdom, relatively few formal controls or co-operation procedures exist to tackle spam and malware, although the government does have a record of working with ISPs and businesses on the problem.
"Although legislation has been introduced, sanctions are limited, and few resources have been allocated to the agencies charged with enforcing the rules," the report said about the United Kingdom. "No cases have been reported of action being taken against spammers."
Information commissioner Viviane Reding said the majority of EU citizens were still affected by unwanted junk email, even though European anti-spam legislation is seven years old.
"Although since 2002, European law has prohibited spam and spyware, on average 65 percent of EU citizens are still affected by spam on a regular basis," said Reding in a speech last week. "We need to step up our fight against spammers and make sure that the EU adopts legislation that provides for strong civil and criminal sanctions against spammers."
Reding said concerted action was required from the member states, as antispam efforts varied from country to country. The Commission's study found "considerable differences" between the number of cases per country and the fines imposed, according to a Commission statement.
In the past three years, Spain and Slovakia have seen the highest amount of enforcement, with each taking action against 39 people for spamming or distributing malware. Romania comes next, with 20 cases.
In addition, the study found fines vary widely. At the high end, the Netherlands saw a 1 million euro fine (US$1.4 million), and several other countries, such as Romania, Ireland and Latvia, imposed fines ranging from hundreds of euros to several thousand euros.
Reding said the Commission's telecoms package, which has been in the pipeline for over two years, would provide conditions for the better enforcement of privacy rules.
"A new provision in the EU telecoms rules requires that penalties for breaking national laws on online privacy should be effective, proportionate and dissuasive," the Commission statement said. "It further obliges EU countries to allocate the necessary resources to national enforcement authorities."