The Office of the Information Commissioner has been criticised for telling recipients of spam that they should reply to junk mail sent from within the UK in order to opt out of receiving it.
Although the European Privacy and Communications Directive has adopted an opt-in approach, where users must give the green light to receiving email blasts, the Information Commission said that people should ask to be struck off lists if the mail originated in the UK.
A spokeswoman told vnunet.com: "We never tell people to reply to spam from abroad but they can exercise their right to opt out if the email comes from a UK company."
She added that the Commission would monitor the situation for abuse of this policy.
But critics warned that this is against recommendations which tell people never to reply to spam as it confirms that an address is 'live'.
Steve Linford, founder of anti-spam organisation Spamhaus, insisted that people should never reply to spam. "How can people tell if it comes from the UK? The address won't necessarily provide the clue," he said.
"This shows that the UK law, which was sold as an 'opt-in' solution, is not. There is nothing opt-in about it."
Ninety per cent of spam comes from outside the UK, and the Information Commission is unable to prosecute spammers from abroad.
The powers it does have over UK spammers are weak and, when combined with the lengthy prosecution procedure, leave industry experts believing that the new European and US legislation will fail to stem the increasing tide of spam.
"We are disappointed that we did not get stronger powers when the regulations came into force," admitted the Commission spokeswoman.
Spam is expected to rise from the current estimated 40 per cent of all emails, to at least 70 per cent by the early summer.
The European Privacy and Communications Directive came into effect on 11 December, but coincided with the UK becoming one of the 10 countries most responsible for sending unsolicited email.
US email security company Postini claims that, since the US Can Spam Act became law on 1 January, the proportion of spam in email rose from 74 per cent in December to 84 per cent within the first couple of days of the new year.
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