The European Parliament will this week review a number of proposals intended to control or even eliminate unsolicited commercial email, known as ?spam?.
MEPs will vote on Thursday for their preferred solution for tackling spam from a range of suggested amendments to the European Commission?s Framework for Electronic Commerce proposal, published last November.
The vote by the Legal Affairs Committee will be followed by a final vote in the European Parliament on 5 May.
ISPs are backing a proposal to eliminate spam by preventing mailings to end users unless they have first signed up for mailing lists - an opt-in scheme. The European ISP Association (EuroISPA) has this week submitted a petition signed by 500 ISPs and 23,800 consumers, backing an opt-in scheme.
However, support elsewhere is weighted towards an opt-out scheme, requiring mailers to clearly identify spam and to remove unwilling users from their mailing lists. Despite the ISPs confidence that their bill will win, sources suggest that an opt-in scheme will get the vote.
EuroISPA says the European parliament is faced with a tricky task, balancing the interests of all parties involved.
?MEPs say they want to introduce as little regulation as possible, but how do you be reasonable to both sides? Unfortunately junk mail being unique, there is no middle way,? said a EuroISPA spokesman.
An opt-in scheme would require new rules and regulations, something EuroISPA accepts might hinder its chances of approval.
?On the face of it, opt-in would be a new rule, whereas opt-out would be an addition,? said the spokesman.
?The point we?re trying to make is that opt-out in EU legislation gives legitimacy to the whole spamming concept - something we don?t want to get,? he said.
Most of the proposed amendments suggest clearly identifying spam in the heading of the email, so a user can rapidly distinguish commercial email from personal email. These amendments also stipulate that users should be able to easy remove themselves from mailing lists.
?[Email is] a new medium, why shouldn?t it be used for commercial advertising purposes? I don?t see any reason why it should be special,? said a spokesman for the Direct Marketing Association, which supports an opt-out scheme.
Consumers can expect more spam as larger companies get involved, according to the DMA.
?When major companies decide it is legitimate, they will use it in an appropriate way - it?s inevitable it seems to me,? said the DMA spokesman.
However, the proposed amendment supported by Europe?s ISPs, made by the European Parliament?s Committee on Culture, Youth, Education and the Media, says commercial email must be solicited, by including the sender?s contact details and must be opt-in.
?Commercial communications sent by electronic mail can be considered as ?solicited? in the case when their recipient has communicated his/her address for this purpose or in full awareness that it may be used in this way; and when the commercial communication conforms with conditions to which prior agreement has been given,? the amendment says.
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