Sending email campaigns? Make sure you’re aware of your obligations under the law. Here’s our summary of the key things you need to know:
What you need to include in your emails:
The UK Companies Act, EC regulations both require that you include your legal company name, registration number, postal address and a valid email address in every email that you send out. It must be clear who’s sending the email – you can’t attempt to conceal your identity in any way.
If you’re collecting personal information, you almost certainly need to be registered as a Data Controller with the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The main regulation covering email marketing is the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, which came into force in the UK on December 11th 2003.
This legislation affects anyone using email or SMS marketing. There are several key points which you must observe in order to avoid being liable for a hefty fine.
- If you have had no prior commercial relationship with a person, you will have to obtain their permission to communicate with them by email or SMS text message.
- You cannot obtain this consent via sending an email or SMS message to ask for it, and the permission has to be actively and knowledgeably given – i.e. the user must tick a box or actively opt-in by performing a specific action.
- If you have had a previous trading relationship, you may be able to communicate with them about a similar product or service. It’s that little word ‘similar’ that gets the lawyers salivating. Because English law is largely determined by case law and precedent, it will be some time before the definition of ‘similar’ is determined, very expensively, in court.
- You must clearly identify the sender of the message.
- You must provide a valid reply address.
- You must make it easy for recipients to unsubscribe from future communications.
- Further restrictions on sending ‘spam’ mean you have to clearly identify who you are, who you’re sending on behalf of and what you’re offering, including any applicable terms and conditions.
Those who fail to follow these regulations face prosecution and could be fined up to £5,000 in a Magistrates Court or an unlimited fine if the prosecution is pursued in the Crown Court.
The 2011 amendments also allow the Information Commissioner’s Office to impose fines of up to £500,000 for serious breaches of the amended Regulations where pertaining to data protection principles.
The Information Commissioner – responsible for enforcing the electronic communications regulations in the UK.