You could be fined for even asking about email marketing

How meticulously have you kept records of who does – and doesn’t – want emails from you? I ask because rules are being tightened up, and the UK Information Commissioner’s Office is not holding back on some of the fines being issued. The airline Flybe has been fined £70,000 for sending out emails to contacts asking “are your details correct?” even if those contacts had previously opted out of marketing emails. Honda Motor Europe has been fined £13,000 for sending out a similar type of email asking “would you like to hear from Honda?” These included contacts which had been supplied by dealers, and where explicit consent to receiving marketing emails had not been provided clearly.

The Commissioner’s direct marketing guidance says that an e-mail or text asking for consent to future marketing messages is itself sent for the purpose of direct marketing and will be subject to the same rules as other marketing texts and e-mail. The guidance also stresses that organisations should keep clear records of what an individual has consented to, and when and how this consent was obtained, so that they can demonstrate compliance in the event of a complaint.

If you’re thinking that this is a bit of a Catch-22, you’re right. How do you find out if someone will consent to marketing emails without emailing them? I guess that you need to go through every name on your email database and determine where the source of the email was, and if that person gave explicit consent for further emails at the time (or since). If in doubt, don’t email them.

For a few companies, I suspect this might eliminate their entire email marketing database. They will need to develop a new policy and start from scratch. I’m guessing that emailing previous customers to ask if you can send them marketing information may be acceptable, but you might want to take advice on that.

There’s more information here.

(News via Smart Insights)