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UK spam ban comes into force

Spam is estimated to cost European companies $3b in lost productivity.
Spam is estimated to cost European companies $3b in lost productivity.

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A Briton leads the fight against Internet spam, tracking down the source of unwanted e-mail. CNN's Robyn Curnow reports.
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Great Britain

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Sending unsolicited e-mails, or spam, in Britain in now a criminal offense under new laws that came into force on Thursday.

The ban is part of a European Union initiative to eradicate unwanted e-mails, with companies now needing to gain permission before sending junk e-mails or text messages.

From Thursday, senders of unwanted e-mails face fines under EU Privacy and Electronic Communications regulations unless the recipient has agreed in advance to accept the messages.

The new laws also allow the recipient to sue firms that send spam to them. Though spam to consumers is banned, under the law unsolicited spam can be sent to companies, but it must include an opt-out clause.

However, the ban doesn't mean that UK inboxes will now be free of spam. Much of the spam that hits Europe originates from abroad, mainly from the United States, and escapes the new law.

The UK Government says the law as a "step in the right direction" but critics say the ban is too weak and the maximum fine of 5000 ($8720) is too small.

"This is a bargain for spammers ... Some of them make 20,000 to 30,000 per week," Steve Linford, founder of anti-spam organisation The Spamhaus Project said earlier this week.

"The whole problem with these laws is that they are geared to spammers being honest and respecting laws. And of course there are no honest spammers -- the whole profession is based on deceit," Linford was quoted as saying by Reuters.

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