Legal guide to email marketing
If you are using email as part of your marketing campaigns, it is important to have a good knowledge of any legal obligations. Here we summarise the main points:
When sending emails as part of a marketing campaign, the UK Companies Act and EC regulations requires you to include certain information. Every email sent must contain your company name, postal address, valid email address, and your registration number. It must be clear exactly who the email is from.
Any company wishing to collect personal information from potential customers must be registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office as a data controller. On 11 December 2003, the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 came into force. There are a number of key aspects that should be noted and complied with to avoid breaking the law and potentially receiving a large fine. These are:
– To communicate by SMS or email with an individual with whom there is no previous commercial relationship, they must first give their consent to receive the communication.
– This consent cannot be obtained by asking for it in an email or SMS; instead, it must be obtained through a specific opt-in action, such as via a tick box.
– Those who have a prior trading relationship may be able to communicate regarding products or services similar to those previously bought by the customer; however, the definition of ‘similar’ is yet to be clearly defined by the courts, so tread carefully.
– It must be clear who has sent the message.
– A valid reply address must be provided.
– Unsubscribing must be quick and simple.
– All applicable terms and conditions must be clearly displayed.
Failure to adhere to these legal regulations will lead to prosecution. If heard in a magistrates court, the offence may warrant a fine of up to £5,000; in the crown court, an unlimited fine could be awarded.
Following amendments in 2011, the Information Commissioner’s Office can now also impose fines for serious regulation breaches. These fines may be for anything up to £500,000 when data protection principles have been violated.
If you are still unsure as to your responsibilities when emailing, take a look at the Information Commissioner’s Office website (https://ico.org.uk). The Information Commissioner is responsible for the enforcement of email communication regulations in the UK.