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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 April, 2004, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
European anti-spam laws lack bite
Spam messages in e-mail inbox, BBC
Almost everyone gets spam
European laws on spam are "meaningless" finds a study by Dutch academics.

Researchers at the University of Amsterdam said the laws will provide no safeguard against spam because most of it originates outside the EU's borders.

Only a co-ordinated international effort will make a difference to the amount of spam being sent they warn.

The authors of the study say the European laws also lack key clauses that would make them more useful to end users.

Tidal wave

The EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications passed in July 2002 set out guidelines for how direct marketing should and should not be done.

The directive placed obligations on those sending spam and said people had to be allowed to opt-in to receive unsolicited messages.

The nine-month study of the EU laws on spam has been carried out by Dr Lodewijk Asscher and colleagues from the Institute for Information Law at the University of Amsterdam working with filtering firm Sybari.

Dr Asscher and his co-workers analysed recent European laws that ban spam as well as older legislation designed to tackle the rising tide of unwanted commercial messages.

Judge's gavel, Eyewire
Spammers are being tackled in court too
Spam is a problem for everyone with an e-mail account.

Spammers tend to send huge amounts of e-mail in the hope that a few of the messages will get through to working e-mail accounts or simply tempt people to respond.

Statistics on spam gathered by mail filtering firm E-Mail Systems has found that 80% of the mail messages being sent to schools are spam.

It also found that more than half of those messages contain pornographic content.

The Dutch researchers found that the EU legislation on spam has a lot of potential to regulate and stop spam but currently that potential is simply not being realised.

Says the study: "The simple fact that most spam originates from outside the EU restricts the European Union's Directive's effectiveness considerably."

As a result the pan-Europe opt-in rule, which means spam only goes to those that choose to receive it, is rendered "meaningless" said the study.

Without similar anti-spam rules being adopted across the globe, the EU directives are not going to stop spam sent to European e-mail users from beyond the region.

The researchers said the EU laws have other weaknesses such as no clear way for users to complain if net providers are not doing enough to stop spam.

They also found that eight EU member nations have yet to implement the directive despite the deadline for compliance falling more than six months ago.

The rogue nations - Belgium, Germany, Greece, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Finland - have been threatened with legal action.

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