Marketing emails

01 October 2012

Email inbox

Email has revolutionised how we keep in touch.

But the sheer ease of reaching people by email can have its downsides, particularly if you find your inbox full of marketing mail advertising products you’re not interested in.

Marketing emails can range from emails sent from reputable firms (which you may have dealt with in the past) advertising their latest products, to less reputable organisations sending out thousands of emails to random addresses. The latter is commonly referred to as spam email.

There are two important rules in relation to marketing email.

The first is that the sender must not conceal their identity, and they must also provide a valid address where you can opt out of receiving further emails.

The second rule is that organisations should not send you marketing emails unless they already have your permission.

However, if there is an existing customer relationship between you and the sender, it can send you marketing emails about similar products and services, as long as you are given the ability to opt out of receiving such messages.

The law does not cover marketing emails sent to companies.

To stop marketing emails from an identifiable UK source or an organisation you are familiar with, use the ‘unsubscribe’ link (usually found at the bottom of the email) or follow instructions in the email for unsubscribing.

Alternatively, you should email the sender to ask them to stop sending you marketing emails (remembering to keep a copy of any correspondence). In many cases things can be resolved quickly without any problems.

If the emails are not from an identifiable UK source or are not from an organisation you are familiar with, do not reply to them.

Instead you should look at the guidance provided on the website of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and/or contact your internet service provider.

If you find you’re receiving a lot of spam email, the first thing to do is to check the security options on your email program. It should have a filter that sends most spam straight to a separate junk folder.

You can also stop mail from particular senders. If you’re unsure how to do this, you should speak to your email account provider or check the instructions for the email application being used i.e. Microsoft Outlook.

What if this does not solve the problem?

If you’re still receiving marketing emails or spam after unsubscribing or asking the sender to stop emailing you, you should complain to the ICO, which has responsibility for enforcement in this area.

To make a complaint, do not forward your spam emails to the ICO. Instead use the link below and complete the online form, or call the ICO on the number provided below.

Complain to the ICO

You can complain to the ICO by:

  • ringing their helpline: 0303 123 1113
  • going online
  • or by post: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF

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