There’s a reason it’s called Spam

 In Direct marketing, Email marketing, Marketing, Marketing communications

A few weeks ago, I attended a talk in Manchester by media lawyer Steve Kuncewicz entitled ‘How not to get sued online (or worse)’, about how to stay on the right side of the law when it comes to social media and online marketing. It’s an interesting area and the speed of development of platforms and networks means that to some extent, the law is being written as we go along.

There was a section of the talk which covered email marketing and a company’s obligations under both the Data Protection act and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. It’s interesting how often the rules here seem to be flouted, and I was particularly impressed when someone who I had swapped business cards with after the talk stuck me straight on an emailing list and proceeded to send me emails as of the very next day. Not only was this unsolicited but he also didn’t comply with the one rule that most people are aware of when it comes to email marketing – you are obliged to include an Unsubscribe link.

For the record, when it comes to email marketing, the law requires:

  • You cannot transmit, or instigate the transmission of, unsolicited marketing material by electronic mail to an individual subscriber unless they have previously notified you, the sender, that they consent, for the time being, to receiving such communications. There is an exception to this rule which has been widely referred to as the soft opt in (Regulation 22(2) refers).
  • You cannot transmit, or instigate the transmission of, any marketing by electronic mail (whether solicited or unsolicited) to any subscriber (whether corporate or individual) where:
    • Your identity has been disguised or concealed; or
    • you have not provided a valid address to which the recipient can send an opt-out request.
    • That electronic mail would contravene regulations 7 or 8 of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2013); or
    • That electronic mail encourages recipients to visit websites which contravene those regulations (Regulation 23 refers).
  • A subscriber must not allow their line to be used to breach Regulation 22(2) (Regulation 22(4) refers).

The ICO has excellent guidance on all things Data Protection and PECR, including email marketing and there’s a comprehensive direct marketing guide here.

Even if legal ramifications are not up your priority list, these rules exist to protect privacy and because unsolicited and unwanted emails annoy people, clog up inboxes and like the tinned pink stuff, generally do not contribute to people’s health and wellbeing. Don’t do it!

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