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Putting the Lid on Spam

Germany is due to pass legislation in the fall to restrict the mailing of spam. The unsolicited E-mail causes an estimated €2.5 billion in damages yearly.


Companies spend billions to clear out unwanted spam each year.

Though network-clogging Spams plague the Internet worldwide, Germany is seeking to immunize its users from the expensive and pesky junk mail.

On Monday, Germany's consumer protection minister announced draft legislation that would severely restrict junk e-mail and punish those who distribute it illegally. Under the new rules, users could only receive spam advertisements if they expressly agreed to do so.

Renate Kunäst called for international agreements to limit spam and said Internet service providers should filter unsolicited commercial messages from their clients e-mail accounts. "It's a classic service for the consumer, filtering out unsolicited e-mails," she said.

Künast also encouraged Internet users to demand that their provider services offer spam filters if they aren't already. "I recommend that clients reward those who behave in a consumer-friendly manner and protect them from the avalanche of advertisements." In the long run, she said, providers would only be able to stay in business if they filtered out spam.

Kunäst's comments came on the heels of reminders from the European Commission that EU members agreed to enforce measures to fight junk e-mail starting in October.

Under Künast's bill, rather than seeking criminal charges against Spammers, consumer protection groups would be able sue companies that send messages illegally. The government could also strip companies of revenues related to the illegal activity, the Berliner Zeitung reported. "You can't compare the sending of commercial e-mails to matters of fact like bodily injury or sexual offences," Künast told the newspaper.

Spam isn't cheap

"Spam has become a serious problem for all of us, for all individuals," European Telecoms and Information Society Commissioner Erkki Liikanen told a press conference last week. He said 48 percent of global e-mail traffic was spam and firms spent €2.5 billion ($2.8 billion) each year finding and deleting it. The EU estimates that half of the e-mails sent worldwide are junk mail.

In Washington last week the chairwoman of the European Parliament's European Internet Foundation, Erika Mann, speculated that the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament would soon come to an agreement to restrict spam on both side of the Atlantic Ocean. It would "set the standard for the rest of the world," she said.

The European Parliament passed legislation in May 2002 to require companies to receive "opt-in" permission from consumers before sending them commercial e-mail.

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