What are the legal issues associated with email marketing?

The Data Protection Act regulates how you build and manage your customer database. You need to comply with the law when sending emails to people who aren't already customers. Further information can be found at: http://www.ico.gov.uk/Home/for_organisations/topic_specific_guides/marketing.aspx

  • It is illegal to reveal recipients' details on any emails. Create a mailing group that sends a blind carbon copy (bcc) to each recipient.
  • When sending email marketing messages, you must not conceal your identity.
  • Under e-commerce regulations, marketing emails must include certain information about your business, including its full name, contact details and a clear indication of prices if you refer to them.
  • There must be a valid address for people to opt out of receiving emails from you.
  • You cannot send unsolicited marketing messages by email to individual subscribers unless you have their prior consent. There are exemptions if their address was collected in the course of a sale or if the recipient has expressed an interest in "similar" items and chose not to opt out when the address was originally collected. "Individual subscribers" do not include companies or individuals within companies.
  • E-commerce regulations require you to make all commercial email clearly identifiable as such, either in the header or the text of the email.
  • There must allows be an unsubscribe mechanism for people to 'opt-out' of receiving further email marketing material.

Please note that the above information only covers the salient points of email marketing. For further information please refer to the Data Protection Act 1998 and contact the DMA (Direct Marketing Association).