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New guidance: Information Commissioner's Office updates guide to electronic marketing

Organisations using email and e-newsletters, phone, texts or other forms of electronic communication to promote themselves will welcome updated guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to help them comply with anti-spam law and avoid significant penalties for breaches.

Legal Alert

This update was published in Legal Alert - May 2016

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

Anti-spam law restricts the sending of unsolicited electronic marketing ('spam') to individual subscribers. Electronic marketing can be done by telephone, fax, email, text and picture or video message, or by using an automated calling system. 'Individuals' includes sole traders and partners in business partnerships in England and Wales.

However, there are exceptions to the anti-spam rules. For example, you can send electronic direct marketing messages to individual subscribers if they have 'opted in' to receiving them, without breaching the rules.

The ICO has issued updated, 50-page guidance, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations: Direct Marketing, which includes a useful downloadable checklist to help them comply.

The main updates are to the legal requirements for obtaining consent to electronic marketing, and precautions to take when buying in a marketing list from a list broker or elsewhere. The ICO has said that an organisation will find it 'very difficult to use bought-in lists for text, email, or automated call campaigns' as these 'require very specific consent' from consumers before the organisation can market to them electronically. The guidance also provides more help for charities and not-for-profit bodies.

As well as the anti-spam rules, the guidance also covers the separate requirements of the Data Protection Act.

Operative date

  • Now


  • Download the updated guidance from the ICO website.
  • Review your website, e-newsletters, order forms and other means of collecting consent to electronic marketing, and your processes and procedures to ensure they comply with the new guidance.

Disclaimer: This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.

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