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Marketing knowledge for high-tech companies
A guide to the law on e-mail
marketing in Europe
Do you intend to run e-mail marketing
This e-guide uses the UK as an illustrative
campaigns to electronics companies in Europe,
example of the law on e-mail marketing in Europe;
but worry about how to comply with the law?
it does not exhaustively describe the implementation
Many marketers are concerned that, by e-
of the EC directive in all 27 member states. This is
mail marketing to customers and prospects
a useful approach: the law in every European
in Europe, they will break ‘privacy’ or ‘spam’
Union (EU) country will be fairly similar, since it is
laws, and face fines or other punishment.
This e-guide tells you what you need to know,
and where to go for comprehensive legal
But it should also be said that every EU country
information on the topic.
has made up its own mind how to interpret andimplement the directive – and some have taken a
Fortunately, the law on e-mail marketing in Europe
less relaxed approach to business-to-business e-
is derived from just one main source: European
Commission directive 2002/58/EC. (The EuropeanCommission is the closest thing the European
What you can and cannot do under the PECR
Union has to a ‘government’.) From here,
Responsibility for enforcement of the UK’s PECR,
however, things become more complicated. This is
and for action to punish those who fail to comply
because the EC directive is implemented in law at
with it, rests with a government body, the
the nation state level – and there are 27 member
states of the EU. So, in the UK for instance, theEC directive finds its expression in the ‘Privacy
The first thing to be clear about is that PECR
and Electronics Communications (EC Directive)
applies to you if you send any sort of direct
Regulations 2003’ – commonly known as PECR.
marketing communication by electronic means:
‘electronic means’ include telephone, fax, SMS
marketing e-mails before you send them - that is,
and video message as well as e-mail. In other
messages where the recipient’s address is a
words, whatever kind of UK e-marketing campaign
you are planning, assume you need to comply
email@example.com). Strangely, even e-
mail marketing universally recognised as spam,such as mass broadcast e-mails promoting Viagra,
The regulations in relation to business-to-business
(B2B) e-mail marketing, however, are significantly
addressees are corporate e-mail accounts.
different from those that apply when marketing to‘individual subscribers’ (that is, consumers or
A note of caution, however. Before you stop
worrying entirely about whether your e-marketing can be seen as ‘spam’, you should
Under PECR, e-mail marketing to consumers is
remember that data protection laws also apply to
tightly controlled in relation to the permission you
need before sending your message. You can e-
mail consumers who have specifically asked you
individual – and this includes employees of
to e-mail them (‘solicited’ e-mail). And you can e-
organisations – the fundamental and enforceable
The consumer has the right at any time to opt out
So you will be breaking the law if you continue to
of your communications, and you must abide by
send B2B marketing messages to the e-mail
address of any named individual if that individualhas asked you not to use the address for
What the PECR says about e-mail marketing
. Also, you must not use an individual’s
to company contacts
name or data in a marketing database without
In the UK, none of these rules about consent and
consent. But in both cases, the law you will be
permission applies to B2B e-mail marketing.
breaking in the UK is the Data Protection Actrather than the PECR regulations on e-mail
The PECR describes B2B campaigns as marketing
to ‘corporate subscribers’ – that is, where the e-mail address belongs to a corporate entity. In any
It is, of course, possible to run e-mail marketing
e-mail campaign to employees or officers of a
campaigns without holding any personal data –
you could, for instance, broadcast to a list of e-
• disclose your company’s identity to the recipient
mail addresses without knowing the names of the
• give the recipient a valid address through which
people those e-mail addresses belonged to. In
they can opt out of your marketing messages.
this case, data protection laws would not apply to
This can be an e-mail address, but it is also
your campaigns, and you could, from a legal point
considered good practice to allow people to opt
of view, safely send e-mails in this way.
But from a marketing point of view, this is spam,
Fail to do these things, and you will be breaking
pure and simple, even if it is legal. Skilled
marketers run e-mail marketing campaigns toknown customers and prospects. In this case, you
But under PECR, you are under no obligation to
will need to comply with the data protection laws
obtain the consent of the recipient of B2B
of whichever country you are operating in.
Is the law elsewhere in Europe the same as
• Comply immediately with individuals’ requests
the law in the UK?
for you not to use their data, or to see what
Each member of the European Union enacts the
EC’s directive separately, and some European
• Comply immediately with individuals’ requests
countries have interpreted the directive’s rules
for you not to send marketing messages to
about e-mailing to ‘corporate subscribers’
differently from the UK. Similarly, each European
• Treat your customers and prospects as you
Union country has its own data protection law.
Again, like the UK’s, this will be based on ECdirectives, but each member state can interpretdirectives in its own way.
So while the laws on e-mail marketing acrossEurope are derived from pronouncements inBrussels, in practice the law is not the sameeverywhere in Europe. To make absolutely surethat you comply with the law, you will need tostudy the law for each country in which yourcampaign is to run. The ‘Resources’ section belowlists a useful guide to the law published by thein the US.
A more practical approach, however, is simply to
follow best practice in e-mail and direct marketing
as laid down by professional bodies such as the
publishes an excellent document, Guidance for
practice exceeds the minimum standards for respect
that applies in the UK. It is freely available at
of data rights and privacy laid down in the law.
These simple principles are common to the best
A comprehensive guide to the international law
practices outlined by these direct marketing
on e-mail marketing, the International Email
Compliance Resource Guide, is published by
• Gain explicit consent from your intended
the US’s Direct Marketing Association (DMA).
recipients before sending e-mail marketing
You can purchase it online at www.the-dma.org
messages to them. Do not assume that consent
for $240. It gives guidance to the law on e-mail
for one type of message gives you blanket
marketing in most of the world’s developed
permission to send any other type of message.
countries, including the UK, Germany, France,
Keep to the spirit as well as the letter of the
• When you gather data from customers and
prospects, tell them why you are gathering it,
publishes useful ‘Best practice’ guides on many
and what you plan to do with their data. Ask
TKO Marketing Consultants, the publisher of IP Club, is a PR,advertising and design services agency specialising in theelectronics industry.
If you would like to discuss e-mail marketing to European
electronics professionals, please call Guy Forster on
+44 1444 473555 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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