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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 May, 2003, 19:27 GMT 20:27 UK
Government to crack down on spam
Screen grab of an e-mail account
Inboxes are often blocked with spam

New rules to curb unwanted and unsolicited e-mail should be in force by the end of October, according to a junior industry minister.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville told peers ministers intended to implement 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.

The government is currently consulting with industry on the recommendations.

Under the directive unsolicited e-mails may only be sent to individuals for direct marketing purposes and "with their prior consent" or where there is an existing customer relationship.

Spam accounts for as much as 40% of global e-mail traffic.

Spam checks

Lord Sainsbury said: "I can't think that it helps anyone in any activity, including voting, to have their computers flooded with some of this quite distasteful material."

Labour's Lord Mitchell said such nuisance advertising and sometimes pornography was "literally choking the internet".

40% of e-mail traffic is spam

Many organisations are now looking for a way to combat spam.

Most internet firms and e-mail services have systems to block spam.

But spammers regularly work out how to get around the checks.

The tighter laws say 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.

They also recommend websites allow individuals to decide if they wish to be included in subscriber directories.

Unfortunately it is not clear how the new European directive will help in combating the flood of spam which comes from outside the European Union.

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