Legal information

Email Marketing & The Law

In the UK basic guidelines suggest whether email marketing campaigns are legal or not.

B2B Lists
The directive states: The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 brought in to force on the 11th December 2003 states in Part 22 section 1 that “This regulation applies to the transmission of unsolicited communications by means of electronic mail to individual subscribers”. It does not intend to prevent the use of electronic mail by organisations for direct marketing purposes to “corporate bodies” The Government definition of a corporate body includes a limited company in the UK, a limited liability partnership in England, Wales and N. Ireland or any partnership in Scotland.

It also includes schools, government departments and agencies, hospitals and other public bodies e.g. the Information Commissioner’s Office. No opt-in is required therefore unsolicited emails can be sent as long as an opt-out or unsubscribe option is included.

B2C Lists
Recipients must have opted-in and a valid opt-out must be included. The UK Information Commissioner also included an option for older lists that were collected under previous legislation. These lists can still be used where there was an existing relationship between company & consumer (I.E. The consumer has made a previous purchase from the company). Law advice at where solicitors Osborne Clarke provide regular updates on digital marketing law.

We recommend you follow the advice of the Information Commissioner’s Office which suggests the following:
'If you are buying or renting a list from a broker, you will need to seek assurances about the basis on which the information was collected.' If you chose to use a 3rd party list provider.

For reference we provide the following information for our clients and their subscribers.

UK (and European Legislation)

The Information Commissioner's Office, guidance on the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003
PDF or website

US Legislation: CAN-SPAM - What the Law Requires.  Main provisions:

It bans false or misleading header information. Your email's "From," "To," and routing information - including the originating domain name and email address - must be accurate and identify the person who initiated the email.

It prohibits deceptive subject lines. The subject line cannot mislead the recipient about the contents or subject matter of the message.

It requires that your email give recipients an opt-out method. You must provide a return email address or another Internet-based response mechanism that allows a recipient to ask you not to send future email messages to their email address, and you must honour their requests. You may create a "menu" of choices to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to end any commercial messages from the sender.

Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your commercial email. When you receive an opt-out request, this law gives you 10 business days to stop sending email to the opted-out email address. You cannot help another entity send email to that address, or have another entity send email on your behalf to that address. It is illegal for you to sell or transfer the email addresses of people who choose not to receive your email, even in the form of a mailing list, unless you transfer the addresses so another entity can comply with the law.

It requires that commercial email be identified as an advertisement and include the sender's valid physical postal address. Your message must contain clear notice that it is an advertisement or other form of solicitation and that the recipient can opt-out of receiving more commercial email from you. It also must include your valid physical postal address.

Some other relevant links:

DTI Advice

Spam regulations


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