Do you know the latest anti-spam laws and is your business compliant?

What is Spamming?

Spam is the popular word for Unsolicited Bulk Email (UBE) and Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE), often called Email spam, a junk email or unsolicited bulk email. This involves sending almost identical messages to numerous recipients by email. Clicking on links in spam email may send users to phishing web sites or sites that are hosting malware. Spam email may also include malware as scripts or other executable file attachments.

In the UK (and the EU), there are two main anti-spam laws: the Data Protection Act UK 1998 and 2003 (amended) and The UK law is ‘The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003′ (PECR).  The latter is based on the ‘The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act)’  in the U.S.

The PECR legislation was introduced in October 2013. This is an important piece of anti-spam legislation which addresses marketing by any electronic means, including email, text, phone and fax. It will help you to determine whether your campaign is classified as spam.

The important part of this anti-spam legislation defines spamming, and states that:

“It is Illegal to send an unsolicited marketing message electronically to an individual unless their contact information was acquired in the course of a sale or negotiations for a sale.”

There are two further conditions to the laws:

The messages must relate to similar products or services; there must be an option to opt-out of future marketing when the data is first collected and on each occasion you send out a marketing message, and it must be a simple means to do so.

So, subject to the above conditions, if someone has bought something from your business and you acquired, say, their email address in the process, then the laws state you CAN legally send them marketing emails. This is known as the “soft opt-in”.

If you continue to send out emails to someone who has expressly asked to be removed from further email communications it is breaking the law.

If you haven’t complied with these conditions, then you’re breaking anti spam laws and are sending spam.

What are ‘Negotiations for a Sale’?

This is a bit of a grey area in anti spam legislation. It can vary from one business to another, and could be a sales enquiry by email or phone. However, it’s unlikely an enquiry about your opening hours, for example, could be treated as negotiations for a sale.

It may be better to ignore data acquired in this way. Not only could you accidentally break anti spam laws, but the goodwill of someone who didn’t buy from you will be much lower than someone who has.

Or better still, why not expressly ask if you can add the enquirer to your database? It’s a neat way to comply with anti spam legislation and build customer relations. Remember to offer an incentive to increase the response rate.

The Difference Between B2B and B2C

Importantly, the PECR also covers marketing to businesses. The laws allow you to send unsolicited marketing emails to ‘corporate subscribers’ – any PLC, limited company, limited liability partnership, public sector organisation, and – in Scotland – partnership.

In fact, under these anti spam laws only a sole trader (and a partnership outwith Scotland) is treated the same as a private individual. So, if you send them unsolicited marketing emails you’ll be breaking the anti spam act.

Even if you comply with anti spam regulations, sending legitimate but uninvited marketing emails is not necessarily best practice. Approach with much caution!

Interestingly, complying with anti spam laws has practical benefits for your database marketing. People want reassurance that their information is kept safe and confidential; they don’t like uninvited emails or texts; and they like to have the choice whether to keep receiving your marketing messages.

All of which proves yet again that the best way to maximise database marketing is to incentivise people to join your database voluntarily, and keep them engaged with valuable content.

Furthermore, sending out emails to people who might not appreciate it, is a quick way to get your domain on a blacklist and emails will either be blocked by the recipeint email server, filtered out as spam by software or at best delivered to the recipients spam or junk folder, which you obviously want to avoid as it can be crippling to a business.

Suggestions for dealing with recipients who wish to opt-out

Create an unsubscribe email e.g. or and put this in the email footer, or have a link in the footer of the email that allows a user to unsubscribe automatically or allows the person to enter the email address that they won’t to opt out of.

Collect these email addresses and remove them from a marketing database. Possible actions is to create a spreadsheet with all the unsubscribe emails on it and keep it up to date. Compare this manually with the email marketing list and check that no unsubscribed email are in this. You could have the unsubscribe link automatically create an unsubscribe spreadsheet with some programming code.

With either of these options, a clause similar to the below should be added to marketing emails, this is an example of the opt-out email version but the email link could be replaced with an unsubcribe URL web link:

___________Disclaimer: The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 establishes requirements for those who send commercial email. It spells out penalties for spammers and companies whose products are advertised in spam if they violate the law, and gives consumers the right to ask mailers to stop spamming them. The above mail is in accordance with The Data Protection Act UK 1998 & 2003 and The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003: There are no deceptive subject lines and is a manual process through our efforts on the web . You can opt out by sending an email  to ensure you will not receive any such mails.___________

How Wimbledon IT can help you avoid breaking the new anti-spam law?

Contact us for more advice about implementing the concepts in this article. We can create the code for emails connected to your website to automate subscriptions and un-subscriptions or help you in creating an unsubcribe email address.


Further reading and