Members of a European Parliamentry committee have told their fellow MEPs to think again about ultra-spam-friendly laws, despite having already had their position rejected by the full parliament in September.
Although there is now no chance that Europe will tell marketeers they must get permission before sending internet users commercial email (opting-in), MEPs are divided on just how easy to make it for spammers.
The Citizens' Rights and Freedoms, Justice and Home Affairs Committee this week again voted in favour of the Marco Cappatto report on data protection, which leaves it up to member states to decide what limits to impose on spam. The report has already been rejected once by MEPs, in September.
While the report takes a tough opt-in position on fax, SMS and automated calling marketing, it allows countries to make emails a special case. For email, spammers are required only to allow email users to opt-out after receiving the unsolicited commercials.
It would, however, eliminate the most annoying types of email spam, those from companies who hide behind false addresses.
The redrafted report would ban "the practice of sending electronic messages for purposes of direct marketing disguising or concealing the identity of the sender on whose behalf the communication is made, or without a valid address to which the recipient may send a request that such communications cease."
However, some MEPs believe email marketing is harmless and spammers should be left alone.
They point out that, as well as blocking 'nuisance' email, the proposals may hit the work of organisations such as charities for whom email marketing is highly cost-effective.
All MEPs will now have to vote again on the report next month. Previously they voted 204 to 129 with 155 abstentions to ask the committee to redraft the proposals.
Anti-spam campaigners such as the European Internet Service Providers Association have previously said that, by taking a weak stance on consumer protection regarding spam, the European Parliament could damage its own credibility for dealing with data retention - a separate affair concerned with cracking down on cybercrime.
In the wake of the terror attacks of 11 September, data retention has again become a hot issue. The UK government is considering measures that will either ask, or require, internet service providers to keep records of which websites their customers visit, what newsgroup articles they read and who they email, for 12 months.
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