Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner in charge of new media and information society, also announced that "anti-spam enforcement authorities" in 13 EU countries had agreed to cooperate in investigating complaints against spammers.

Reding said in a statement: "Enforcement authorities in member states must be able to deal effectively with spam from other EU countries."

The deal reached by the 13 national agencies in charge of combating unsolicited email is voluntary but "establishes a common procedure for handling cross-border complaints on spam" and closes loopholes "exploited by spammers and data thieves", the commission said. 

"Enforcement authorities in member states must be able to deal effectively with spam from other EU countries"

Viviane Reding,
EU commissioner for new media and information society

Coordination among the 13 agencies from Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands and Spain will be carried out through an existing EU contact network set up last year.

EU laws requiring companies to get consent before sending email, tracking personal data on websites or pinpointing callers' locations via satellite-linked mobile phones have been in place since 2003, although some in the 25-nation bloc were slow to enact legislation against spammers.

Privacy regulations

The anti-spam rules are part of tough privacy regulations adopted in 2003 on electronic communications.

The majority of unsolicited email to Europeans originate from outside the EU.

About 80% of all email sent last year were unsolicited commercial bulk mail, according to US-based email filtering company Message Labs, and the vast majority of those email originated in the US, where national anti-spam laws have been in effect for a year.

Under US law, no prior permission is required for sending commercial messages as long as the recipient is given a chance to "opt out" of receiving future messages from the same sender.