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The European Commission is taking action against nine member states for failing to implement an on-line privacy directive.

The Commission says it has opened infringement proceedings against Belgium, Germany, Greece, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Finland and Sweden. The countries failed to implement the EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications, otherwise known as the e-Privacy Directive, which was adopted by the European Parliament and Council in July 2002. The Directive sets EU-wide rules for the protection of privacy and personal data in mobile and fixed communications, including the Internet.

The most highly publicised aspect of the new Directive was a ban on sending 'spam' or unsolicited commercial e-mail throughout the EU.

The deadline for incorporation into national law was 31 October 2003 at the latest. By that date, only six countries had taken measures to transpose it. Ireland narrowly missed out on infringement proceedings, since it adopted the transposition measures after the deadline date.

According to the Commission, letters of formal notice, the first stage of infringement proceedings, have now been sent out to the member states in question. In the case of Sweden, this concerns only Article 13 of the directive, which relates to unsolicited communications as the rest of the directive was covered by the transposition measures, which were notified on time. The nine member states have been requested to respond within two months.

"The e-Privacy Directive is a key element in the new regulatory framework for electronic communications. It is urgent that Member States adopt a consistent legislative approach to such issues as unsolicited e-mails ('spam'), the use of location data or 'cookies'. This will strengthen consumer confidence in e-commerce and electronic services, which is a prerequisite for sustainable growth in the sector," said Erkki Liikanen, commissioner for enterprise and the information society. "I urge those Member States that have not yet transposed this Directive to complete the task with the minimum of further delay."

© ENN

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