The government has ditched plans to regulate electronic junk mail.

The decision comes despite fears that "spam" is set to spread from PCs to mobile phones in the form of SMS messages.

The DTI has announced it will be pushing voluntary self regulation schemes instead, which will work along the same lines as America’s Email Preference Scheme.

"We decided self-regulation was the most effective and least restrictive approach," the DTI said.

It also pointed out that under the Data Protection Act PC users still have the right to object to spam.

Had the government pressed ahead with plans to require companies sending marketing emails to get the consent of the recipient prior to sending the spam mail. This has become known as opt-in or permission marketing.

However many industry watchers fear that the government’s light-handed approach will give a green light to direct marketers who have long been eyeing up the possibility of sending messages to Britain’s burgeoning mobile phone community.