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Email and European Law-Your quick guide to UK email legislation

The new UK email legislation comes into force on the 11th December with implications for email marketers. WebCertain has tried to condense this into a succinct checklist so you can make a quick check of your email marketing plans. Please note that WebCertain's own product 'Permission Manager' automatically guarantees you all these features.

See also our analysis (below) of the growing importance of search engine marketing in developing your email activities.

WebCertain Email Legislation Checklist
  1. If the person you are sending to has had no contact with you previously - you need to ask for permission first.
  2. If you have already had a business relationship then you can email them until they ask you to no longer send emails BUT see 3!
  3. For 2 to apply, you must be offering SIMILAR products and services to those previously offered.
  4. Make sure your email makes it clear who it is from.
  5. Include a valid reply address.
  6. Include an 'unsubscribe' link in your emails.

WebCertain Analysis

Well it's arrived and we now know what the initial UK law looks like. However, because of the way the English legal system works, we will not really now how the law is to be interpreted until there is some case law and actions have been brought to court. Best to avoid that of course!

The key thing is that you now need permission for 'cold' emailing - but note that 'opt-out' still applies for fax and telephone - so you could use those techniques to request permission - provided that you check the 'block' lists before you fax or phone.

Our advice is to focus your resources initially on your web site and search engine marketing. Attract relevant potential customers to your site, get them interested in your products and services - and take the opportunity to ask them to sign up for your email newsletters, special offers and information. This gives you the permission you need.

WebCertain will give you an email address account to begin capturing and profiling your potential customers. You only begin to pay once we start to produce and send emails to them.

The relevant legislation is called 'The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003'. This comes into force on the 11th December 2003. Below we reproduce the two key sections of the regulations as they affect email marketing - although these should be read within the context of the Data Protection Act '98.*

Use of electronic mail for direct marketing purposes

22 (1) This regulation applies to the transmission of unsolicited communication by means of electronic mail to individual subscribers.

(2) Except in circumstances referred to in paragraph (3), a person shall neither transmit, nor instigate the transmission of, unsolicited communications for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail unless the recipient of the electronic mail has previously notified the sender that he consents for the time being to such communications being sent by, or at the instigation of, the sender.

(3) A person may send or instigate the sending of electronic mail for the purposes of direct marketing where-

(a) that person has obtained the contact details of the recipient of that electronic mail in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service to that recipient;

(b)the direct marketing is in respect of that person's similar products and services only; and

(c) the recipient has been given a simple means of refusing (free of charge except for the costs of the transmission of the refusal) the use of his contact details for the purposes of such direct marketing, at the time that the details were initially collected, and where he did not initially refuse the use of the details, at the time of each subsequent communication.

(4) A subscriber shall not permit his line to be used in contravention of paragraph (2).

Use of electronic mail for direct marketing purposes where the identity or address of the sender is concealed

23. A person shall neither transmit, nor instigate the transmission of, a communication for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail-

(a) where the identity of the person on whose behalf the communication has been sent has been disguised or concealed; or

(b) where a valid address to which the recipient of the communication may send a request that such communications cease has not been provided.

* WebCertain Europe Ltd has provided the information on this page as guidance for marketing professionals. It does NOT replace proper legal advice and we take no responsiblity for the consequences of following guidance shown on this page.

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