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Understanding privacy and permission-based e-mailing

December 2003 saw the Privacy and electronic communications regulations 2003 come into play. Meaning sellers have to take more care in the way they market via e-mail.

It can include e-mail marketing in various ways. For a full explanation go to; Information Commissioner's website. Below is a summary of the key aspects:
  • E-mail definition, for purpose of regulations, is as follows: voicemail, mobile phone text messages, sound and image files sent over a public network.
  • Any unsolicited marketing in e-mail to any individual, including companies and sole traders, must be done with permission. For example a check box when registering to your site. Without this permission it is considered spam.
  • Lists of names and email addresses are available to rent or buy. But if you use this avenue you must personally check to see all names on the list are still opting in. If any have unsubscribed or opted out and you send promotional material, you can be prosecuted for spamming.
  • Marketing previous customers is fine provided they have an opt-out option. This might be previous customers of sellers, an enquiry if email was provided. Simply, a sentence at the foot of the e-mail can do this, with an opt-out/unsubscribe link.
  • In all cases of e-mail marketing you must clearly explain who you are and provide valid contact details. Be clear about how they can opt out.
  • If you use cookies, or collect user information in other ways, e.g. surveys, you must have a privacy policy. To see what needs to be included read this useful PDF guide
Failure to comply to regulations can land you in court and sporting a hefty fine for spamming. Then there is the cost to your business reputation to consider.
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