The European Internet Service Providers Association (EuroISPA) and the Federation of European Direct Marketing Associations (Fedma) have clashed over how to deal with junk electronic mail, so called spam, in a proposed directive on electronic commerce.
EuroISPA said it wanted junk electronic mail to be banned, saying it costs consumers money through their phone bill and time to delete the unwanted mail. Fedma said that subject to privacy restraints, spam is a legitimate form of marketing.
Jean-Christophe Le Toquin from EuroISPA said: "It costs ISPs money in bandwidth and capacity. Commercial electronic mailers should not object to being restricted to mailing only those people who have given their consent to receive such mail."
But Fedma officials said it would be opposed to any form of banning of unsolicited junk mail and said that the current data protection directive makes it clear that marketing agencies give consumers the choice to receive or refuse mail.
"We have to acknowledge that there is a consumer concern, but there are other ways of dealing with the problem of spamming than banning it altogether," said Asuncion Caparros of Fedma.
"More money needs to be invested in finding a solution that can be applied to electronic mail - we have found solutions for post and telephone marketing and we can do the same for electronic marketing," she said.
Caparros said the marketing industry has established a system called the Robinson list, where the consumer can write to all direct marketing agencies worldwide to request not to be sent material.
The US has created a Robinson list for electronic mail, which would be operational there in the next two months and in Europe in the near future, she said.
European Commisson is proposing that worries over spamming be resolved by 'tagging' unsolicited electronic mail so the recipient can identify it and choose to ignore it.
But EuroISPA said there are widespread fears that the 'tagging' process would give junk mailers the chance to send at least one junk mail to everyone before consumers had a chance to set up a filter.
In a separate call on the directive, the European Public Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO) said ISPs could be encouraged to shut down websites which have illegal content, for fear of being held liable, even where proof of illegal activity is not available.
"The draft directive contains nothing to inhibit unjustified complaints. This, combined with ISPs lack of competence to judge the validity of complaints, will result in the unnecessary closure of many sites," said an ETNO statement.
ETNO said it is essential that ISPs are required to take down, or remove material, only in response to complaints that conform with clearly defined procedures and that liability in cases of takedown because of unjustified third party complaints must be defined.
The draft electronic commerce proposal was under discussion in the European Parliament's legal affairs committee at the end of last week, with a vote expected at the beginning of April.
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