September 2002

Update: European Union Parliament Votes to Ban Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail

Holland & Knight Newsletter
Vito A. Costanzo

We reported in April that the European Union (EU) was considering restrictions on the use of “cookies” and unsolicited commercial e-mail, or “spam,” on the Web.  The European Parliament has since approved a directive  that would require the recipient’s explicit consent for the receipt of commercial e-mail.  This “opt-in” process will replace the “opt-out” process currently utilized.  EU member states are expected to approve the directive.

U.S. companies have escaped this requirement, as the directive will apply only to EU companies.  Further, the impact of the directive in the EU may be negligible in view of the large amount of unsolicited e-mail sent to EU consumers from outside the EU.

The European Parliament also rejected a proposal to prohibit the retrieval of information through the use of cookies unless Internet users opt-in by providing explicit consent.  Instead, the directive allows the use of cookies provided that consumers are warned before using the Web site.  This weakened provision is a victory for advertisers, who rely on cookies to collect marketing data.

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