I have just been reading your article about e-marketing. Have I read your info correctly in that if I have a list of email addresses obtained from a business directory then I cannot send sole traders and partnerships an 'e-sales letter' by email, even if I give them an opportunity to opt-out of further emails?
Thanks for your question.
Yes, that is right.
Under the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, sole traders and partnerships can be "individual subscribers", and marketing communications to individual subscribers are only permitted in the circumstances described in Regulation 22: namely, where the subscriber "has previously notified the sender that he consents for the time being to such communications being sent", or where a consent has been gained through an opt-out possibility during a previous transaction. (I have copied the full regulation below.)
In addition, the use email addresses of corporate subscribers that include personal data will usually be subject to a consent requirement under the Data Protection Act 1998.
Going beyond the law, best practice for email marketing demands not just consent but a double opt-in. Typically, a user must first take some positive action to request the email, and then give a secondary consent through a link in a confirmatory email. The big email marketing service providers either require or strongly encourage double opt-ins.
Also, sending marketing emails to those who haven't asked for them may lead to blacklisting.
22.—(1) This regulation applies to the transmission of unsolicited communications by means of electronic mail to individual subscribers.
(2) Except in the circumstances referred to in paragraph (3), a person shall neither transmit, nor instigate the transmission of, unsolicited communications for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail unless the recipient of the electronic mail has previously notified the sender that he consents for the time being to such communications being sent by, or at the instigation of, the sender.
(3) A person may send or instigate the sending of electronic mail for the purposes of direct marketing where—
(a) that person has obtained the contact details of the recipient of that electronic mail in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service to that recipient;
(b) the direct marketing is in respect of that person’s similar products and services only; and
(c) the recipient has been given a simple means of refusing (free of charge except for the costs of the transmission of the refusal) the use of his contact details for the purposes of such direct marketing, at the time that the details were initially collected, and, where he did not initially refuse the use of the details, at the time of each subsequent communication.
(4) A subscriber shall not permit his line to be used in contravention of paragraph (2).