Using emails to promote your products and services can be an effective marketing strategy, and one that is routinely used by many businesses. However, before you hit send, there are some electronic marketing rules that you need to be aware of. If you get things wrong, you could not only face hefty fines from the ICO, but you could also damage your business’s reputation and goodwill.
To set you on the right track, we’ve set out five key things you need to know about sending marketing emails.
1. You can send marketing emails to existing customers if…
If you want to market to your existing customers, you can only do so if the following criteria are met:
- You got their contact details through selling them a product or service (or through negotiations if the sale was not completed);
- Your marketing message relates to similar products or services to those you previously sold to, or negotiated with, the customer;
- You provide an easy way for consent to marketing to be withdrawn (see point 3 below);
- When first contacting them, you provide your privacy information;
- You comply with your data protection obligations when handling their personal data; and
- You have parental consent if your customer is under the age of 13.
2. …otherwise you need consent
For further guidance about getting consent to direct marketing email, see our Q&A.
3. You must include an ‘unsubscribe’ link
You must include a mechanism in your email allowing the recipients of your marketing emails to withdraw their consent at any time. For example, you could include an unsubscribe link or button, or provide an opt-out phone number or address.
4. The rules don’t apply to business customers
The rules about sending marketing emails are not as strict if you’ll be marketing to a company rather than an individual. You must simply identify your business and provide its contact details in your email.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) recommends that you keep a ‘do not email’ list of any companies which have objected to you sending marketing emails to them.
Bear in mind that if you are marketing to an employee of a company with a personal corporate email address, eg email@example.com, data protection rules will apply as the individual is identifiable from their email address. This means that you must comply with your data protection obligations and give the individual the option to opt-out of future emails (see 3 above).
5. Service messages don’t count
A routine customer service message does not count as direct marketing, and so the rules set out above don’t apply. A service message is a factual message about your product or service; for example, it might provide product safety information to your customers. Bear in mind that if your service message contains any marketing information at all (eg information encouraging the customer to buy something), you will need to follow the email marketing rules.
Finally, it’s important to remember that when you’re sending marketing emails to individuals, you’ll be processing their personal information (eg names, email addresses). This means that you must comply with your data protection obligations when handling that data.
For detailed guidance about sending marketing emails, as well as other forms of direct marketing (such as by phone or post), see our Q&A on Direct marketing.
Before joining Sparqa Legal as a Senior Legal Editor in 2017, Frankie spent five years training and practising as a corporate disputes and investigations lawyer at leading international law firm Hogan Lovells. As legal insights lead, Frankie regularly contributes to Sparqa Legal’s blog, writing content across employment law, data protection, disputes and more.