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EU Mulls New Legal Fight Against Spam, Invasion of Privacy

In a bid to patch holes in Europe's rules governing the Internet, the European Commission is considering a renewed effort to clamp down on spam and online abuse of consumers' privacy.

Only 12 percent of E.U. citizens feel safe making online transactions, and action must be taken to change that, said Meglana Kuneva, European commissioner for consumer rights, and Viviane Reding, European commissioner for information society.

While a third of E.U. consumers would in principle buy online from a seller in another E.U. country if there was a price or quality advantage, only seven percent actually do so, according to Commission research.

Consumers' confidence in shopping online is undermined by spam, which they still see as a problem despite rules against it passed in 2003, the commissioners said in a joint statement.

The U.S. is still the single biggest source of spam, accounting for 19.8 percent of all spam, followed by China at 9.9 percent, the Commission said.

Closer to home, Russia (6.4 percent) and Turkey (4.4 percent) still bombard E.U. consumers. Within Europe, Italy is the worst offender, accounting for 3 percent of the total, followed by Spain (2.9 percent), the U.K. (2.7 percent) and Germany (2.4 percent).

The Commission is considering proposing new civil and criminal laws against spam that could be applied not only across the E.U., but also in neighboring countries such as Russia and Turkey, it said.

Meanwhile the Commissioners said they want to guarantee that privacy policies linked to online offers are properly disclosed and have fair contract terms. They are considering new legislation to achieve this.

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