The UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will today open its consultation on the implementation of new European Union (EU) anti-spam laws.

UK anti-spam laws will incorporate the EU Electronic Communication Data Protection Directive, which bans the sending of bulk email without prior approval. This will restrict mass-marketing campaigns by companies in Europe and and the US sent to both email accounts and cellular phones.

The amount of Unsolicited emails is growing rapidly, with spam comprising an estimated 42 per cent of the annual total of outgoing messages, according to anti-spam company Brightmail.

However, most junk mail comes from outside the EU. According to messaging specialist Mirapoint 60 per cent of bogus email comes from companies and individuals beyond the threshold of existing laws. Only global laws can truly prevent spam but even then, without the support of technological advances some junk mail will still get through.

"The current state of email technology makes routine identification of senders so burdensome as to be virtually impractical," said Stephen Cobb, senior vice president for research and education at ePrivacy: "Spammers send millions of messages in short burst from multiple servers located somewhere like China, through servers they have compromised at legitimate European and US companies. By the time law enforcement comes looking, the originating servers are gone, sometimes in as little as a week. "

Cobb added that: "An international agreement would be good, but without a fundamental change to email technology it would be as hard to enforce under current laws."

The question over who should be responsible for spam is still up for debate. Many consumers place this duty on the government and its adoption of tougher regulations. Mirapoint's chief executive officer Satish Ramachandran agrees; he feels that ISPs: "Cannot be expected to shoulder the financial burden of spam detection which instead must be the responsibility of governments".

Spam mail is growing, and despite filtering services the situation does not seem to have improved. But ePrivacy group says it has developed a blueprint for stopping spam, which should be in place by the end of 2003: "We have been talking to many of the major players over a period of several years and sense that there is an emerging consensus for action," said Cobb.

The US is currently in the process of tightening its anti-spam legislation, with several states adapting their laws so that individuals can sue spammers for up to $500 for each piece of unwanted mail received.