Are your emails breaking the law?
An interesting question. How can an email break the law?
Well, The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) sit alongside the Data Protection Act. They give people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications.
There are specific rules on:
- marketing calls, emails, texts and faxes;
- cookies (and similar technologies);
- keeping communications services secure; and
- customer privacy as regards traffic and location data, itemised billing, line identification, and directory listings.
So if you have a mailing list that you regularly send marketing and communications messages to, then these regulations apply to you.
What are the rules for sending emails?
You must not send email marketing to individuals unless they have given specific consent to be added to your marketing/communication mailing list, or if they are a prior or existing customer and you give them a clear opportunity to opt out of receiving marketing emails when you collect their details and in every email you send.
You’ve probably noticed the automatically ticked box on a website that tells you to untick it if you don’t want to receive updates. Most people don’t bother reading the small print.
You’ve probably also received emails from every company you ever bought anything from online, and at the bottom there’s usually an unsubscribe link.
How to make sure you comply with the rules
The easiest way to follow the rules is to use mailing software, such as MailChimp, which tracks your mailing list subscribers, adds a very clear unsubscribe link and automatically removes any that unsubscribe, as well as any emails that are no longer in use (after several attempts). In fact mailing software is really useful because it tracks how many recipients actually read your emails and engage with them, so aside from keeping you nice and legal, it also analyses your communications and helps you send better newsletters.
Make sure you get permission to send out emails. Ask people to join your mailing list. If they don’t want to then, at least you won’t be sending messages to people who don’t want to hear from you. And you won’t be breaking any laws either!
Think about how you acquired someone’s email address and whether it is appropriate to send them a marketing/communications email: Did they give you a business card in order to keep in touch to set a meeting? Does that mean they want to be included in all your marketing emails? If you do decide to chance it, at least give them the option to unsubscribe if they don’t want your news updates.
Keep separate lists, perhaps you have a tenants list or a members list, people that need to be kept up to date with what’s happening because it affects them. That doesn’t mean they want to know about all your special offers and promotions. Keep your lists categorised and separate – this is also something that mailing software can do automatically for you.
Finally, be careful about sending emails on mass. If you are emailing a large number of people for marketing purposes, always Blind Copy them (BCC) that way no one will be able to access the contact emails of the other recipients. And if you do receive an email that hasn’t been Blind Copied, don’t then steal all those contacts for your own email list. You don;t have a relationship with these people, and using their details will make you guilty of spamming.
Of course, there are unscrupulous people who collect and sell email addresses. You’ve probably all been a victim of this at some point. We’re all inundated with spam emails on a daily basis – so let’s not contribute to it further. Follow the rules and when you do send an email, it is more likely to be a welcomed update rather than an irritation.