EU Says ‘No To Spam, Yes To E-Commerce’

In an attempt to foster e-commerce, the European Union (EU) assembly proposed a set of rules this week that would, among other things, work toward diminishing unsolicited junk e-mail — otherwise known as spam.

The EU announcement builds on an e-commerce regulatory proposal drafted in May by its civil service and executive branch, the European Commission, as reported in the E-Commerce Times. In part recapitulating its earlier stance, the EU endorsed a spam “opt-out” registry, allowing consumers to indicate whether or not they choose to receive the controversial junk e-mail transmissions.

Critics Say The Proposal Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Spam has still not been voted out altogether, however, and critics abound. Groups such as the European Internet Service Provider Association (EuroIspa) have called for a tougher stance, such as an “opt-in” consumer alternative, stipulating delivery on request.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will be tapped for duty in enforcing anti-spam regulations as monitoring agencies. The proposal addresses a range of issues facing the development of e-commerce in Europe, including jurisdiction issues.

Jurisdiction Issues Remain Critical

One of the most controversial issues from the proposal involves cross-border transactions. EU’s original ruling favors the country-of-origin over the country-of-reception, but exemptions will be allowed. Consumer advocates helped to initiate a proposal allowing e-commerce patrons to utilize laws that exist in their own country if EU-wide rules do not apply.

Companies selling goods or services online, and across borders, will be regulated by EU generally, however. According to some experts, this will eliminate concerns that 15 separate sets of national rules and restrictions might impact the growth and embrace of e-commerce in Europe. The focus, said an EU representative, is to “allow operators authorized in one member state to provide services throughout the EU.”

The proposal also addresses service providers, expanding their responsibility in copyright violations and libel matters. At the same time, EU sought to protect both ISPs and phone companies against liability issues stemming from the transmission or storage of illegal material.

The Future of E-Commerce in Europe

According to an EU statement published by Newsbytes, “the commission’s new directive attempts to establish a coherent legal framework for the development of electronic commerce within the EU by ensuring that information society services benefit from the EU principles of free movement of services and freedom of establishment.”

The original draft proposal was published shortly after a Forrester Amsterdam Research report appeared which called for IT managers to move more quickly to embrace e-commerce solutions. International Data Corp. (IDC) numbers indicate that Western Europe will grab 23% of the total worldwide Internet users by 2002. According to IDC, the 320 million projected European netizens will translate to a significant share of the international e-commerce market forecast to reach $425 billion (US$) by 2002, up from $32 billion in 1998.

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