ICO Publishes New Guidance on Direct Marketing

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has given fresh guidance on direct marketing, including a simple checklist for those involved in direct marketing activities

The guidance explains the rules on direct marketing under the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (as amended) (PECR).

It summarises the relevant law and considers the following issues in details:

  • what amounts to consent
  • how to obtain consent
  • rules on marketing calls, texts and emails
  • opt out rights
  • marketing lists and buying in marketing databases

For example, the guidance states that:

  • Under PECR, the consent from an individual to receive unsolicited electronic communication will need to be obtained before sending direct marketing. It must also be clear, specific and given freely.
  • Organisations should use opt-in boxes where possible to obtain explicit consent.
  • Rules on calls, texts and emails are stricter than for direct mail and consent must be more specific.
  • Organisations should be especially cautious when buying in marketing databases and/or relying on indirect consents, ie consents obtained by a third party.
  • If using marketing lists, organisations should take steps to ensure that the list was compiled fairly and appropriate consents have been obtained.
  • The ICO will consider using its enforcement powers if an organisation fails to comply with the law or is found to consistently ignore individuals’ objections to marketing.

ICO guidance is not binding law, but is vitally important to help you ensure that marketing calls, texts and other direct marketing activities are made in line with the law.

Download the ICO’s direct marketing guidance (PDF, 533K).