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Last Updated:  Thursday, 27 March, 2003, 12:01 GMT
UK sets sights on spam
Screen grab of an e-mail account
Inboxes are often blocked with spam
The UK Government is determined to crack down on the menace of unwanted and unsolicited e-mail.

It is proposing a fight back against the spammers with strict new rules about how personal e-mail details are used.

From October, a European Union directive will make unsolicited e-mails illegal across member states and the UK Government is planning to have its legal framework in place at the same time.

Spam accounts for as much as 40% of global e-mail traffic and is causing a headache for businesses, costing them billions in lost productivity.

More power to consumer

The government will recommend that businesses gain prior consent before sending unsolicited advertisements via e-mail.

This is not a single solution and it isn't going to be the end of spam
DTI spokeswoman
Cookies and other tracking devices on web pages will need to be clearly indicated to allow people to choose whether they want their activities monitored online.

It also recommends websites allow individuals to decide if they wish to be included in subscriber directories.

The government plans to consult with industry on the recommendations until 12 June and the new law will be brought into force at the end of October.

Officials are well aware that the problem of spam is a huge one, unlikely to be sorted out by just by having a legal framework to fight the spammers.

Heavy fines

"This is not a single solution and it isn't going to be the end of spam," said a spokeswoman for the Department of Trade and Industry.

It will however, clarify the law for companies wishing to use e-mail for legitimate marketing and also give internet service providers, businesses and individuals more power to go after persistent spammers.

"ISPs will be backed up by the law saying spamming is illegal and the Information Commissioner will have greater power to follow up any complaint," the spokeswoman said.

Persistent spammers could face limitless fines if the case against them goes to trial, she said.

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