The European Commission has taken the first steps towards court action against the nine Member States that have not yet implemented a Directive setting out new rules to deal with unsolicited commercial e-mail, cookies and other privacy issues in electronic communications.
The Directive was due to be implemented throughout the EU by 31st October, but only six member states have so far notified the Commission that 'transposition measures' have been put in place. One of these is the UK, although its Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations will not come into force until Thursday, 11th December.
Ireland has also avoided action, but only just; the Irish Minister for Communications, Dermot Ahern, signed measures implementing the Directive last month.
Letters of formal notice, the first stage of infringement proceedings, have accordingly been sent to Belgium, Germany, Greece, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Finland and Sweden.
In the case of Sweden, the notice concerns only the part of the Directive which relates to unsolicited communications as the rest was covered by its transposition measures, which were notified on time.
The Member States are requested to respond within two months.
Erkki Liikanen, Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society said:
"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 emails ('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."
"I urge those Member States that have not yet transposed this Directive to complete the task with the minimum of further delay."