EU battles flood of unwanted e-mail

EU takes action on the business cost of spam


Last year, Ferris Research estimated spam to cost €39 billion worldwide, while fellow researcher Computer Economics calculated malicious software to cost €11 billion worldwide. No surprises then that the European Commission has warned its member states to beef up their efforts to cut spam, spyware and malicious software.

New research showed that up to 85 per cent of all e-mail received in the European Union is unsolicited. The findings come four years after the EU adopted anti-spam legislation in the form of the e-privacy directive. "It is time to turn the repeated political concern about spam into concrete actions to fight spam," Viviane Reding, the commissioner for Information Society and Media.

If there is no improvement by this time next year, Reding will consider introducing new legislative measures to fight the scourge, she said. She pointed to the Netherlands as an example of how the current legal regime can be used to cut spam. Holland’s spam-busting unit, known by the initials OPTA, has just five full-time staff and €570,000 (US$747,000) worth of equipment, and has succeeded in cutting spam by 85 per cent. “I'd like to see other countries achieving similar results through more efficient enforcement,” Reding said.

Finland was also singled out for praise. A filtering system there has cut the amount of spam to 30 per cent of all e-mail, from 80 per cent two years ago, the Commission said. “We encourage other countries in the Union to develop similar filtering means,” said Martin Selmayr, Reding’s spokesman.

The Commission is urging other countries “to lay down clear lines of responsibility to use the tools available under EU law effectively."

Better cooperation with enforcement authorities from other countries, including countries outside the Union, is essential to defeat the spammers, the Commission said. The US remains the single biggest source of spam, accounting for 22 per cent of all spam received in the EU, the Commission said. China is the second largest source, accounting for 13 per cent. France and South Korea rank joint third at 6 per cent.

The Commission's latest communication on spam is available at:

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