The European Commission estimates internet users around the world pay 10bn euros a year in connection charges just receiving junk emails.

A study carried out by the Commission highlights a problem in both the US and the European Union. This study is part of the Commission's ongoing efforts to get over the paradoxical nature of its internet policy - that the development of the internet does not undermine Europe's internet privacy and data protection.

"Unless consumers feel their privacy is adequately protected, the online services that are so important to wealth and job creation in Europe are unlikely to flourish," the Commission said in a statement.

The study comes as the European Union is trying to pass legislation on online data privacy.