Friday, 26 January 2007

Email spam: UK companies and your electronic privacy

Earlier this month a survey by data and marketing specialists CDMS found that 31% of the top 200 UK companies are still not complying with the EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications, which says that companies can only email unsolicited sales messages to non-customers who have actively opted-in or actively consented to receiving them. Non-customers include people who respond to the company's money-off promotions or competitions, or who simply make an enquiry of the company.

Simply offering someone the opportunity to opt-out of receiving unsolicited emails (or indeed pre-ticking an opt-in box) is not enough to comply with the Directive, CDMS said.

They urged companies to take steps to ensure they comply "before finding themselves the subject of a highly public complaint, or a test case prosecution such as that successfully pursued by a Guernsey businessman at the end of last year."

I covered that test case in a previous post, and also some thoughts on how we as consumers could try fighting spam by suing the spammers if we get spam from companies who breach the Directive.

If you want to know more about your rights under the Directive, see the helpful info on privacy and electronic communications on the Information Commissioner's site.

As well as basic FAQs for consumers/general public and FAQs for organisations on the UK's Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, the ICO have also issued detailed guidance for subscribers (i.e. consumers) on marketing by electronic means and guidance for companies/marketers including on security, confidentiality, traffic and location data,
itemised billing, CLI and directories

Their regulations cover not just email but "direct marketing messages by electronic means such as by telephone, fax, email, text message and picture (including video) message and by using an automated calling system" i.e. junk texts, junk faxes and the like. They're helpful and well worth a look if you're a consumer suffering from unwanted e-spam, telemarketing or junk email, or a company trying to keep within the law.

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