The British government unveiled proposals Thursday to crack down on the sending of unsolicited commercial emails.

Spam now accounts for around 40% of global email traffic, much to the annoyance of recipients. Now the government plans to make it illegal to send spam unless those on the receiving end have given prior consent.

Under the scheme, illegal spammers will be hit with unlimited fines and leave themselves open to lawsuits from consumers.

The proposals, which are now open to consultation, mark the UK implementation of the European Union directive on privacy and electronic communications due to take effect in October.

Following this directive, the government’s plan also covers unsolicited text messages to mobile phones and the use of cookies [text files employed by websites to identify and track surfers]. The former will be banned; the latter will be permitted, though sites must supply consumers with information on their cookies and the chance to reject them.

Ecommerce minister Stephen Timms argued the new rules would help businesses as well as consumers: “Obviously this is about protecting consumers – we want them to feel confident about using new technologies – but it is also about the industry itself being able to use the technology properly to build legitimate businesses.”

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff