Businesses in the UK are contributing to the deluge of junk email clogging up inboxes, according to research by Spam Ratings.
The company, which rates web sites on how much spam they send, signed up to email alerts from 10,000 sites and recorded the various types of email it received over a 12-month period.
Spam Ratings said that it received over 150,000 emails from the sites, almost 75 per cent of which were unsolicited.
Around 40 per cent of the sites were responsible for the bulk of the spam, and three in 10 of the unwanted emails came from third-party sites, suggesting that email address data is routinely passed on.
Andy Yates, co-founder of Spam Ratings, said the firm was "shocked and surprised" by the level of junk email logged during the research, and that businesses of all sizes are at fault.
"We found that big brands and SMEs are guilty of sending out unwanted emails, and it's important that firms understand the risks of doing so, as it is damaging to their brand to misuse customer emails like this," he said.
"The amount of emails coming from third-party web sites was particularly worrying, and led to a deluge of malicious emails promoting scams or using phishing techniques to gather user data."
Yates also said that a lot of emails contravene best practice guidelines issued from key organisations like the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).
"Firms aren't doing anything illegal per se by doing this, but they are causing email issues for customers by not being fair and transparent about their email policies. We intend to talk with organisations like the ICO as well as firms to address this," said Yates.
The ICO told V3.co.uk it always takes issues around the Data Protection Act seriously and said firms should always ensure their customers were aware of how their data was being used.
"The Data Protection Act requires that individuals are informed if their personal details are going to be passed to third parties for marketing purposes, " the ICO noted.
"In the ICO's view it is good practice to offer individuals a clear opportunity to 'opt out' of such disclosures, as this allows them to have more control over the way in which their personal information is used."
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