Unwanted junk, or spam, email is costing UK businesses as much as £470 per employee every year, according to research conducted by email security company MessageLabs.

Spam, or junk mail, was branded useless by 28 percent of the 200 companies questioned, while a separate study carried out by Gartner Research suggested that over a third (34 percent) of spam mail was unwanted.

These figures look low to us at PC Advisor, a view somewhat endorsed by the fact that MessageLabs found a massive 62 percent of businesses were reviewing their anti-spam policy.

"More and more firms are now waking up to the issue, recognising that spam is a drain on their IT resources but also has an impact on productivity," said Jos White, marketing manager at MessageLabs.

The research coincides with proposals by the European Parliament under the Telecoms Data Protection Directive over how member states should deal with spam — the EU has proposed that countries should be allowed to incorporate their own policies into law.

But if discontent with spam is running this high, then the EU's decision looks to be extremely bad news for consumers and businesses — the UK government is believed to be in favour of an 'opt out' scheme, so people would have to request not to receive spam.

The Department of Trade and Industry said the government fully supported the idea that countries should be responsible for enforcing their own policies. As to what the UK's policy might be, the DTi says no decision had yet been reached.

The EU Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs is currently debating the proposals, but whatever the outcome it looks as though spam is here to stay.