Anti-spam laws and the EU

The legal environment changes all the time, so the information and links below may be out of date. Be sure to check with your local regulatory authority or legal experts for the latest information.

Find out which European Union directives and activities impact on email marketing practices in Europe.

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The EU issued a formal "Privacy and Electronic Communications" Directive in 2002, specifically covering the sending of unsolicited commercial email. Member states are obliged to implement directives in their own national legislation. Indeed, EU directives carry no practical implications on their own, but only when actually transcribed into local laws.

Don't expect all EU countries to share common email marketing laws, though, despite the standard established in the EU document. The directive leaves it up to each country to choose their preferred approach on some issues. Countries also differ in how they interpret the wording of the directive.

So although the EU documents give you an overview of the base standard in Europe, you still need to check each country's local email marketing laws on a case-by-case basis.

Key documents

Unsolicited communications - Fighting Spam
Page from the EU with information and links on EU anti-spam legislation and activities. Check the news section for updates on relevant EU policy and projects.

EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive
Access to the full text of Directive 2002/58/EC on data protection and privacy, "concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector." Article 13(1) deals specifically with the issue of unsolicited commercial email.

Protecting privacy and fighting spam
Factsheet issued in 2006 with details on the EU's intentions on this topic.

Measures to counter unsolicited commercial communications
2004 communication from the commission with advice for member states on actions which need to be taken to complement the legislative changes outlined in the directive.

You might also read...

The Federation of European Direct Marketing maintains regular updates on (and interpretations of) EU data protection initiatives, including the directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications.

Europe not so harmonious
Survey reveals that anti-spam laws in Europe are not yet fully harmonized across all countries.

New Email Marketing Rules in the European Union
Offers a very thorough overview of the state of email marketing legislation in the EU (as of mid-2005).