It’s crucial for email marketers to understand and comply with the applicable email marketing regulations to protect the privacy and rights of individuals.
There are two key regulations email marketers need to consider in the UK: the UK GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).
GDPR and its role in email marketing
Since Brexit, the EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) no longer applies to UK businesses or residents. Instead, the UK has adopted its own implementation called the UK GDPR.
So, how does GDPR affect email marketing? This regulation governs the use of personal information, including email addresses, in email marketing. It works in conjunction with the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018) and PECR to safeguard the privacy and rights of UK citizens.
Important content requirements
When sending marketing emails, certain content requirements must be met. Every email must include a valid postal address and the email should clearly identify the sender, ensuring recipients know who the email is from.
Transparency in promotions
If you are promoting a product or service, it is crucial to clearly communicate that you are selling something and provide any associated conditions. Consent plays a vital role in email marketing.
In general, you should not send marketing emails to individuals unless:
- They have explicitly given consent to receive emails from you
- They are existing customers who have purchased or negotiated to buy a similar product or service in the past, and you provided them with a simple way to opt-out at the time of collecting their details and in every subsequent message (known as ‘soft opt-in‘).
It is essential to process unsubscribe requests promptly, within 28 days.
Exceptions and additional requirements
While the soft opt-in rule allows you to email your existing customers, it does not apply to prospective customers or new contacts acquired from bought-in lists. Moreover, non-commercial promotions, such as charity fundraising or political campaigning, have different rules and exemptions.
Penalties and fines
Breaching email marketing regulations can lead to significant penalties. Under the UK GDPR guidelines, the maximum fine can be up to £17.5 million or 4% of the annual global turnover, whichever is higher.
It’s worth noting that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has stated they will not excessively penalise organisations for minor infringements and won’t make maximum fines the norm.
It is crucial to understand and comply with the regulations surrounding email marketing. The UK GDPR, along with the DPA 2018 and PECR, provide a framework to protect the privacy and rights of individuals. By following content requirements, obtaining proper consent and adhering to the rules, you can conduct email marketing campaigns while respecting legal obligations. Staying compliant not only safeguards your business but also builds trust and credibility with your audience.
💡 For more information on compliance, check out this compliance checklist for marketers.