EU seeks to battle spam with national registries

Each of the 15 European Union countries will have to create national registers of Internet users who do not want to receive spam -- unsolicited e-mail-- under a proposal on electronic commerce put forward by the European Commission.

Each of the 15 European Union countries will have to create national registers of Internet users who do not want to receive spam -- unsolicited e-mail-- if a revised proposal on electronic commerce put forward today by the European Commission wins approval by the Council of Ministers later this year.

The new draft text of this directive reflects the opinion of the European Parliament, handed down in May. The draft now goes to the Council of Ministers, which could provide an initial approval on the proposal during a meeting of internal market ministers in December. Formal adoption would then take place by mid-2000, with implementation some 18-months later.

The modified proposal put forward today involves several clarifications of the original Commission text of October 1998. The Commission left untouched -- despite some Parliament-suggested changes -- proposals regarding the liability of service providers for illegal transmission of material that violate rules on copyright or the protection of minors, or which involve criminal activity.

National internal market ministers are likely to come back to this question of liability during their discussions within the Council of Ministers.

The proposed electronic commerce directive also seeks to eliminate legal obstacles to the pan-European provision of on-line services, and in this way to nip in the bud diverging national rules. The proposal sets out common principles that the Commission believes will guarantee the free circulation of online services. These rights include online conclusion of contracts.

The modified proposal clarifies the point at which an on-line contract is established, stating that "the contract is concluded when the recipient of the service has received from the service provider, electronically, an acknowledgement of receipt of the recipient's acceptance."

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