10 things you should know about ... email marketing

This article highlights some of the key features of the law governing the use of email for marketing purposes.  It considers only the position under English law. Although much of the UK legislation relating to email marketing is EU-inspired, the laws across the EU are not properly harmonized. The position under US law is also quite different from the position under English law.

(1) What is a marketing email?

English law does not have a core conception of a marketing email. Different sets of rules regulate different kinds of email.

The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (the "Privacy Regulations"), the most important piece of legislation in this field, regulate the transmission of "communications for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail". The courts can be expected to place a broad interpretation upon these words. However, the key provisions on email marketing apply only to "unsolicited" communications to "individual subscribers".

The Data Protection Act 1998 regulates emails which contain personal data (e.g. individuals' names - fred.bloggs@company.ltd.uk).

Voluntary codes (such as the Direct Marketing Association's Code of Practice) and the contractual terms of hosting companies tend to cover a wide range of communications. Some hosting terms, for example, cover all unsolicited commercial emails.

(2) Aren't all unsolicited marketing emails illegal?

No.

Emails sent to corporate subscribers which do not contain any personal information (e.g. admin@company.ltd.uk) are not specifically regulated under English law - save that the emails must contain certain information (see below).

"Corporate subscribers" in this context includes limited companies, PLCs and LLPs; it does not include sole traders or general partnerships.

In all other cases, unsolicited emails sent for direct marketing purposes will be unlawful unless the recipient has in some way consented to receive the email.

(3) Opt-outs, opt-ins and soft opt-ins

Opt-outs, opt-ins and soft opt-ins are three different ways of obtaining consent to send marketing emails.

  • An opt-out is where the email recipient has been given, at the point at which the contact information was submitted, the opportunity to opt-out from receiving the emails, and has not done so (e.g. by not ticking a box in an HTML form).
  • An opt-in is where the email recipient has specifically indicated a desire to receive the emails at the point at which the contact information was submitted (e.g. by ticking a box in an HTML form).
  • There is also a special form of consent under the Privacy Regulations called the "soft opt-in". This applies where (i) an email address was obtained in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service to that recipient, (ii) the direct marketing is in respect of similar products and services, and (iii) the recipient was given the opportunity to "opt out" when the details were collected and with subsequent communication.

(4) What sort of consent do I need?

There is a good deal of confusion about what kind of consent is required for sending marketing emails.

The position under the Data Protection Act 1998 is that opt-out (or similar) consent is generally thought to be sufficient in the case of marketing emails involving non-sensitive personal data. However, express or opt-in consent would be required for any direct marketing communications which involve the processing of sensitive personal data, such as data relating to ethnicity, politics or medical conditions.

Opt-in or equivalent consent is required under the Privacy Regulations for marketing emails sent to individual subscribers, unless the soft opt-in provisions apply (see above).  (NB the Privacy Regulations do not use the terms "opt-in" and "opt-out".)

You should also check the requirements of your email service provider's terms and conditions. These often required a more stringent standard of consent than the general law.

You must comply with each applicable rule set.

(5) Information to be provided before consent is given

If you are collecting contact information which includes or may include personal data, certain information must be notified to the data subject:

  • the identity of the data controller;
  • the purpose(s) for which the data are intended to be processed; and
  • any further information which is necessary, having regard to the specific circumstances in which the data are or are to be processed, to enable processing in respect of the data subject to be fair.

The information should in general be given to data subjects or made readily available to them at the point of collection.

The most common way to meet these requirements in the website context is through the use of fair processing notices and privacy policies.

(6) Information to be provided in all marketing emails

Regulation 23 of the Privacy Regulations says:

"A person shall neither transmit, nor instigate the transmission of, a communication for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail - (a) where the identity of the person on whose behalf the communication has been sent has been disguised or concealed; (b) where a valid address to which the recipient of the communication may send a request that such communications cease has not been provided; (c) where that electronic mail would contravene regulation 7 of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002(1); or (d) where that electronic mail encourages recipients to visit websites which contravene that regulation".

Regulation 7 of the Electronic Commerce Regulations says:

"A service provider shall ensure that any commercial communication provided by him and which constitutes or forms part of an information society service shall— (a) be clearly identifiable as a commercial communication; (b) clearly identify the person on whose behalf the commercial communication is made; (c) clearly identify as such any promotional offer (including any discount, premium or gift) and ensure that any conditions which must be met to qualify for it are easily accessible, and presented clearly and unambiguously; and (d) clearly identify as such any promotional competition or game and ensure that any conditions for participation are easily accessible and presented clearly and unambiguously."

In addition, the Companies Act requires all business emails sent by a corporation to include the following information:

  • company name;
  • company registration number;
  • place of registration; and
  • registered office address.

(7) Right to object

Under the Data Protection Act 1998, individuals may object at any time to the processing of their personal data for the purposes of direct marketing. Similarly, the Privacy Regulations have the effect of prohibiting the sending of marketing emails to individual subscribers who have notified the sender that they do not wish to receive such emails.

(8) What is good practice?

The Information Commissioner has stated that, notwithstanding the legal requirements, good practice requires that marketers follow the guidelines set out below.

  • Try to go for opt-in-based marketing as much as possible.
  • Provide a statement of use when you collect details.
  • Make sure you clearly explain what individuals' details will be used for.
  • Do not have consent boxes already ticked.
  • Provide a simple and quick method for customers to opt out of marketing messages at no cost other than that of sending the message.
  • Promptly comply with opt-out requests from everyone, not just those from individuals.
  • Have a system in place to deal with complaints about unwanted marketing.
  • When you receive an opt-out request, suppress the individual or company details rather than deleting them. (This way you will have a record of who not to contact.)

(9) Is buying lists allowed?

There is nothing in the legislation which expressly prohibits the purchasing of email lists. However, if you are thinking of using such a list, you should only purchase it from a reputable company and you should ask for a warranty that the list has been lawfully collected and may be used as intended.  Even then, you should think twice.

(10) Other risks

The terms of service of most ISPs and email marketing service providers prohibit spamming. However, different sets of terms will define spam in different ways. If you are considering sending unsolicited commercial emails, you should ensure that you do not breach the terms of your contract with your ISP or email marketing service provider.

This is an adapted version of an article originally published on www.website-law.co.uk in March 2007.

Comments

I just wanted to thank you for your reply: I understand that in this murky area it wasn't likely to be 'straight'.

Compliments on your service: I shall certainly book-mark your website for future reference.

And Merry Christmas!

Hi - great thread

While I am aware that hotels need an address for legal purposes, do they have a right to demand my email address, even if there is a tick box to opt out? I don't feel comfortable giving my email address at any point, to a company who may overlook the tick box.

There is no general legal right to demand the provision of an email address, but some services might only be available to those who have an address. E.g. you cannot purchase a legal template on the SEQ ecommerce site without an email address, because the links to download the templates are set out by email, and without an email address you won't get your templates.

I think this may be more of a practical than a legal problem, and the solution may be to use one or more junk email management techniques.

Hiya,

Thanks for the great article, Alasdair. I just wanted to double check something with you.

I work for a small local carer charity and we have a list of our carers' emails on file. We currently do not have a consent form or a statement read out to them at the time of collecting their email, nor do we have an opt-in/opt-out box for being contacted. We only collect their information when they come to us for case work, which includes details about the health conditions of the person they care for.

Would it be against the law to send them all one email asking them if they want to opt-out of future emails? Or would an opt-in be the correct way to do it? These future emails would be a newsletter containing relevant information, articles, events news etc. 

At the moment we have no way of sending out an e-newsletter so for us this would be a quick way to ascertain who would like to receive information from us.

Many thanks in advance for your help in this!

I'm not sure if there is a black-and-white answer here.

Presumably the email addresses were collected to enable you to communicate something to carers, and an email asking for consent to future marketing emails would to my mind fall within the class of communications that might, in these circumstances, be expected. On the other hand, depending upon the circumstances in which the email addresses were collected, it might be arguable that you didn't provide enough information to carers to make this particular use of carers' personal data. Again, it is arguable that a request for consent to marketing is itself marketing, and therefore that the PECR consent requirement applies (" ... notified the sender that he consents for the time being ... "), and is not satisfied simply by the supply of the email address.

As to the question of opt-in or opt-out, to be confident that consents are real and effective for the purposes of the DPA and the PECRs, you should use opt-in type consents. Silence might not be consent: e.g. the consent requests might themselves be hidden by spam filters. In any case, do you really want to be sending email newsletters to people who might not want them?

ps You should be providing carers with a privacy/data protection statement at the point where you collect data. Health data about an identifiable living individual is "sensitive personal data" for the purposes of the DPA, and is subject to more onerous processing requirements than ordinary personal data. For general information about health information and data protection law, see:

http://ico.org.uk/for_organisations/sector_guides/health

I am the Secretary of an amateur sports league in the North West and we have over 150 teams within the league. I hold the details of all the team secretaries including their email addresses, which is our primary means of communication. I wish to forward e-newsletters from the National Governing Body of our sport on a quarterly basis to all the teams. The registration forms they complete annually includes the statement 'We do not object to the information given below being stored on computer for mailing and fixture book purposes (Data Protection Act 1984)'

Do we need to give secretaries the option to opt-out of receiving these e-newsletters?

Sir,

I have a 25000 email list from a networking site. I use it for my newsletter and also I forward some of my clients' newsletters to my database in exchange for payment.

Is it illegal to do so??

If your activities are regulated by English law, then yes, this will almost certainly be in breach of both the DPA and the PECRs.

Hi,

I've recently statrted a keepsake jewellery business and my target market is parents of young children.

Am I allowed to go online and search for nurseries to email? I'd like to ask the nurseries' permission to post them discount vouchers for their parents to have if they'd like.

The nurseries won't have opted in but this won't be a regular newsletter, just a one off email to see if they'd like the vouchers posted to them.

If we have received emails from people who have registered their interest in our product (through a third party web site) about a specific product (which we have spoken/emailed them about) can we then use these same details to email them a further product in the same line?

The answer is probably 'no', but I'd need more information to be sure. How exactly were the email addresses collected?  What were the terms of the privacy policy under which they were collected (if any)? Could the initial contact be characterised as "negotiations for the sale of the product"? Were users given the opportunity to opt-out of further marketing at the point of collection of the email addresses?

The emails were collected because we ran a marketing campaign with another company. The people who answered the email campaign had to provide email/telephone etc to get further information. We now have all of their details on file.

Thanks.

I'd need detailed answers to my previous questions to help further with this.

Hello 

I received an email from a sports club that I have opted in to receive promotions. On this occassion they were running a prize draw for 2 tickets to a massive game for the first 25 customers who signed up to a betting website and placed a £20 bet. 

I received the email at 9.54pm one evening and within 21 minutes had registered as a new customer and placed the bet. I was told that I was unsuccessful. I contacted the betting website and they told me that the draw had actually gone out through social media at 4pm that afternoon and I could see that the prizes had already been won by 5.26pm that afternoon. 

In summary, the prize had been already won several hours before I received the email. 

I did contact the sports club and they confirmed that the emails also went out at 4pm but they use a 3rd party email service and therefore had no control over the time that they were sent.

My question:  Is there any specific law /rules around sending out a first come, first severe limited competition with the view that some users might not be eligible to win the prize as it had gone out on a more immediate channel?

My concern is that a sports club with lots of loyal followers have been running unfair competitions by the fact that I and proably 10,000,s of others got the email over 4 hours after the competition had been won.

Even if this is still legal it just seems morally wrong.

I would appreciate your views?

Thanks in advance

CMullaney

Without doing any research, I'd guess that this behaviour falls foul of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Reglations 2008, and also the CAP Code rules prize promotions. You could also look at misrepresentation.  Whether it is worth pursuing, is another matter.

See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misrepresentation

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2008/9780110811574/contents

There are some examples of unfair practices in Sch 1.

Hi,

I'm very confused. And thanks in advance of reading this. I own a small training company. I can obtain a large data base freely available from Google including address and emails directly from their websites.

First question -  and having read the 2 pages so far it mentions this "b) the direct marketing is in respect of that person’s similar products and services only; and" which hopefully will help me! For instance - my training center is open for plumbing apprentices (what the potential reciever is or was) and we also do gas reassessments (which the reciever also does or will need) - so are they similar services? Products?

Second question - what about sending them a personal letter expalining who we are etc? Where does that stand?

Final question - can I simply send an email with a title 'new gas and apprenticeship training center in ....................' and then once opened give a quick brief of who we are and then ask them to reply simply say yes or no to recieving emails from us?

Cheers

1) They sound similar to me, but there is little in the way of authoratative guidance on what counts as "similar" for the purposes of this legislation.

2) Letters (vs emails) are not covered by the PECRs, although there may be an argument under data protection law that the processing of personal data for the purpose direct mailings requires consent. A grey area, with the shade of grey depending upon what exactly you are doing.

3) I think that an email sent for the purpose of requesting consent to direct marketing is an email sent for the purposes of direct marketing, and hence subject to the Regs.

What about if certain contacts had opted-out from our (B2B) emails, event invitations and white papers etc. but we wanted to personally invite them to a specifc one-off event? Would someone at our firm be able to send them an individual electronic invitation? Does this person have to know them personally?

Thanks for your advice.

We're looking at sending 3rd party emails to our registered database. The client we are looking to send on behalf of has asked if we can supply the data of those who have clicked on a link in this email. We would not supply the email address - just the name, business name and telephone number.

Is this something which is permitted? Is it dependant on the terms and conditions we put in the footer of the email?

Thanks

Strictly, you would need some form of consent from the persons concerned to do that. The answer probably depends upon the scope of consent you got when you collected the data originally. I don't think that consent could be manufactured using T&Cs in the email footer where consent is the default.

I have gained a list published online from a FOI request which states the email contact addresses of every school in the UK, these are generic admin (at) office (at) etc emails.

If I where to now send an email out to all of them with the intention of them visiting my companies website and building a business relationship would this be legal.

The email itself will contain all the relevant opt out and company information and will not be a 'sales' email initially, more a news letter explaining we are a new company to the UK and have made available a product previously only available in Canada and to get in touch if they want to talk.

Unless you are subject to some restricting relating to how you obtained the list (e.g. in T&Cs that you agreed to) I think this would not, in itself, be unlawful. However, the sending of the emails may contravene ISP T&Cs.

Hi there - great article!

I have a related question which seems very unclear looking at various websites etc... I'm a web designer and we send marketing emails out to our clients database. The database is stored on our server (which our client rents from us). 

The emails we send are not from our company - but our clients. How do we stand when it comes to registering with IPO? We adhere to the practices mentioned above, but do not have control over some of the opt-in proceedures as these are dealt with by another company.

I'm interested to understand if we are liable for anything?

Thanks.

Under the Data Protection Act 1998, the main duties fall on data controllers. The data controller is the person who determines the purpose or purposes for which data are processed. Often, that would be the client rather than the web designer. However, it is possible for a client and services provider to be joint data controllers.

In any case, if you are merely a data processor rather than a data controller in respect of the email data, then under the current DPA you are probably not liable, even if the client has breached the DPA in the collection / use of the data. The position of data controllers is however expected to change when data protection law is next overhauled.

The ICO maintains a register of data controllers, not data processors: http://ico.org.uk/what_we_cover/register_of_data_controllers. If you are not a data controller with respect to the email data, then you do not need to register with the ICO in respect of that data - which is not to say that you don't have some independent obligation to register.

The relevant obligations in the PECRs apply to both to those who "transmit" marketing emails and to those who "instigate the transmission" of marketing emails. Arguably, you could fall within one or both of these categories. On the other hand, drafting of the the "soft-opt in" is difficult to square with an interpretation that brings an email service provider within the scope of Reg 22. See: 

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2003/2426/regulation/22/made

Very useful article, thanks!

I run a small gift company in the UK and need to confirm, if I buy a mailing list which the 'reputable' seller guarantees the addresses are all opt-in and they supply info of which site their details come from, can I use the list with an unsubscribe option? Ie does the 'opt-in' clause relate specifically to my business or product, even if the customer agreed (under the terms) that their details can be used for 3rd parties use. 

If not ... in reality ... in the UK at the moment, what is the likelihood of actually being prosecuted for sending out a single campaign to test the water for responses? Or would it just be a slap on the wrist for such 1st offence? I'm presuming there's far bigger fish to fry!

Many thanks

Thanks for your question. The fact that a list seller warrants that a list is "opt-in" does not affect your primary liability in the event that you breach the DPA or PECRs when sending out a campaign. However, if you suffered any loss as a result of such a campaign, eg damages from a private claim, you may (depending upon the precise terms of the warranty) have a right to claim any losses you suffer back from the list supplier. Of course, a right to claim, and actually recovering money, are two quite different things.

A claim that a list is "opt-in" rather begs the question - what have users opted into?  Not many users would opt to receive emails from any company that happens to buy a mailing list containing their data!

As to the risks, I suspect they are lowish for a single campaign, but I don't have any good data.  If you look on the ICO site they publicise at least some of their enforcement actions, and these do tend to be for more serious breaches.

I run an email marketing company and our users who are all UK-based subscribe to our system and send emails to UK corporate customers (Ltd, Plc and LLP) which is allowed under UK legislation.

Some will be their own customers, some will be opt-in, some may not, but they're all UK corporates. Our site has been added to a black list that is preventing a significant percentage of our customers' emails from being delivered and the operators of the black list have cited the CAN SPAM Act, Canadian SPAM legislation and other non-UK legislation as grounds for adding us.

I've explained that we are UK based, emailing within the UK only and not governed by that legislation and what our users are doing is perfectly legal yet they refuse to remove us from their list. This is damaging our business financially. I've asked for evidence of what they believe to be offending emails and they've refused to supply anything making me suspect they don't have anything. Can I get a cease and desist order to prevent them operating in this manner?

No-one likes spam but indiscriminate adding to blacklists without evidence doesn't help anyone.

Thanks for your post John. In general terms, it can be difficult to pin a civil action on anti-spam organisation. However, to advise on this question, a lawyer would need to know all the details. As it is causing real loss, I suggest you consult an solicitor specialising in contentious IT/internet law. If you would like the name of someone suitable, send me your email via the website contact form.

I am an online retailer and want to use my customers' email addresses to let them know of new promotions. I don't keep any personal details other than the email address - although the personal details are available to me online through my payment gateway. Do I need to register with the Data Protection Commissioner?

Whether you need to register will depend upon whether you do any processing outside the scope of the exceptions.

Take this test to find out:

http://ico.org.uk/for_organisations/data_protection/registration/self-as...

Email marketing would usually be covered by the general exception for "staff administration, advertising, marketing or public relations, or accounts or records".

If I have a group of people who are members of my "club" but who haven't specifically given permisson to be messaged by member of my staff in another branch, would this be considered illegal?

They will have opted-in to my general emails, but not to specific branch/personal club manager emails.

Do I need a formal written, or electronic "opt-in" from someone who is a member? Also, does it make a difference if I write to them personally, or whether I do so as my business?

Would this apply to non-members who have attended my club/s too? Could I email them if they paid and attened, or would they need to opt-in in some form?

Many thanks,

AJ

Hi, I have responded to a company several times now asking them to cease and desist emailing me. I asked them to delete my details and stop.

The last two times I said I will invoice then £20 for my time each time they email me, as a cost for my personal time.

Does this seem a fair way to push this to a conclusion?  I'm nothing trying to profit, just assert my right and have by time compensated.

Does it seem likely a claim via the county court after a 30 day non payment period will be successful for such sums?

Thanks for an interesting page.

If the company is in the UK, you may be able to claim damages for breach of statutory duty.  See:

http://www.out-law.com/page-6503

http://spamlegalaction.pbworks.com/w/page/15962040/FrontPage

I think the courts in these cases use the damages claim to punish the spammer, rather than as a strictly compensatory measure.

Another approach, of course, is to notify the ICO, but I doubt they will take any action if only a few emails are involved.

Hello,

I have a number of domain names that would be of interest to companies in the UK and the US. Am I allowed, under UK and US law, to send unsolicited emails to a general email address of any types of business offering to sell the domain to them as long as no personal data / name is in the email address, such as info@smithwonderproducts? These companies may well be interested in the domain. If not, how about a letter / leaflet in the post?

Many thanks,

I Osborn

Under English law, then providing that (i) you are not processing personal data (eg individual names), (ii) the recipient is a Ltd company (or other incorporated entity), and (iii) you are not breaching any contractual or other legal undertaking when sending the emails (eg an enforceable legal restriction in website T&Cs), you should be fine from a legal perspective under current law. However, you would inevitably be emailing companies who are not interested in the domain and would still be liable to be blacklisted as a spammer. Letters or leaflets should also be permissible, subject to points (i) and (iii).

I can't comment on the US legal position.

Many thanks Alasdair,

I may well contact you again seeking your services for domain name assignment contracts!

Regards,

I Osborn

I received an unsolicited email from a local company who told me (because of what they offered me) that they knew my employment status, what I did for a living and my name. They were inviting me to apply to work with them. I asked them who gave them my details. They say they have no way of tracking who gave them my details "database collected from many sources". There is no way they could have obtained the data they hold on me from anywhere other than via a current employee or a previous employee (or some random person hacking into the database) of the organisation I currently work for, and I am sure they know this. One of the local company's staff is a previous employee of the organisation I currently work for and had access to my details. The organisation I currently work for told me their legal department is looking into who gave the local company the data, and assured me they didn't do it themselves. The pool of people who do the sort of work I do is very, very small (500 people max). Can I insist that the local company tells me where they got my data?

... but what happens if they still refuse?

A compliant to the ICO would probably be the cheapest / easiest line of attack, but whether the ICO would take action, I don't know.

Dear Advice,

Two questions

1) If you send a request information on a 'free post return' to an address is this legal? I assume that this allows the target to respond or not?

2) If a survey is sent to an email list of 'business to business' contacts stating that no private information will be used (i.e. the survey content will not be matched to the actual email) is this possible?

3) For the clarity of all the other queries, how on earth do you get permission to email someone. I have been given the Telephone number and name of someone by a colleague, can I call them?? According to what I read above with email, I cannot!!!??? Extremely confusing as now I find it only possible to meet with a new contact F2F, by introduction in person or by ??

We currently have a mailing list collected (with consent) for one of our restaurants and we were wondering if we can send these recipients details of our new restaurant via email that has opened (different name - not a chain of restaurants etc)

There are two possible legal bases for such marketing: (i) that the original consent was wide enough to cover this proposed use; or (ii) that the soft opt-in exception applies. For the latter, see:

https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/marketing/

 

I run a small business, a company limited by shares. We sometimes advertise for more staff, and invariably I soon thereafter either get a call or an email from recruitment agencies, either offering their services in helping us finding the staff we just advertised for or sending us the CVs of a few people who they believe would be suitable for us, along with their T&Cs.

I often also receive cold calls or cold emails from recruiters, without an active job advert on the market, asking for HR or the recruiting manager, again offering their services or sending a few CVs across asking whether we would have a need for any of those people.

Finally, and probably after looking at my LinkedIn profile and deciding that my business is small enough (we are close to 30 people), being called or more frequently emailed with job offers for one of their clients.

What of all this is legal and what is not quite so?

Hi Alasdair, 

Many thanks for the article, have found the information different issues all enlightening yet no less daunting.

I work for a charity that produces learning resources. Would i be right in thinking that we would be OK to contact corporate subscribers (in our case schools) with possible resources that could be of use to them? (Providing the addressess were not personal ones would these be considered corporate subscribers?)

Hi George.

I believe that the legal status of schools in the UK varies somewhat from school to school, but providing a school has a separate legal personality (eg it isn't an unincorporated association) then it won't be an individual subscriber for the purposes of the PECRs.

Remember that just because a campaign is legal under the legislation, doesn't mean that it won't breach (for instance) email service provider T&Cs, or that it won't result in blacklisting.

You do not specify anywhere what can be done to stop a persistent offender - I am being harassed by someone who despite repreated requests will not stop sending me emails. He is also doing this to many others who likewise have requested him to stop. I also seem to be getting copied in to their emails. My colleagues are also getting mails now...how do I get this person to stop?!!

What, broadly, is content of the emails? Are they purely commerical? Are they being sent by a company, an individual acting in the course of a business, or a private individual?  Where did the sender get the email addresses?

It's clear that under several requisites to comply is allowed to send marksting emails to corporate recipients without previous consent under the UK law.

But what if destination recipients belong to US companies which SPAM ACT undoubtely prohibits such emails without previous consent?

Eg:

1) Sending company is legally registered in UK.

2) Company uses a mail server located at UK.

3) Destination mail recipient belongs to a not given consent US company and therefore able to fill an unsolicited email complaint.

At US sending unsolicited marketing emails under any form is Federal Crime, but for the above example the action that may become crime, takes place out of the American territory.

Question: Is it legal to target US companies with unsolicited marketing emails from UK?

This is probably out of the post's and your scope, but would be interesting to find out.

Tbh I don't know the position under US anti-spam laws in this situation. However it's not uncommon for the US courts (and indeed other countries' courts) to assert extra-territorial jurisdiction in internet-related cases. Of course the assertion of jurisdiction is one thing, and extra-territorial enforcement another.

US anti-spam law prohibits the sending of any product or service offer by email to any entity without previous given consent unless there's a proven relation between message sender and message receiver.

 

Dear Sir,

It seems that the laws in UK and USA are stricter in regulating unsolicited direct marketing mails than other countries.

In other countries, they are probably not as strict. Even if all countries are very strict, in practice, which recipient of unsolicited mails will spend thousands of USD or pound sterling in legal fees to sue the sender just because of an irritating email keep coming everyday? Nobody will spend the money and spend a lot of time and efforts to work with a lawyer to sue the sender especially the sender is from overseas where the legal cost would be a few times more. Mind you, there are so many such unsolicited mails are coming from every where and from so many countries in the world. You will end up spending millions in legal fees every year and forever in your life!

What the recipients could do is just to complain to the ISP provider to have their mail blacklisted. This works. But then the sender can create many many different names and continue to send again.

Reputation is another risk. This is valid. But Amazon.com is doing very well. 

If the sender company is from Africa, third world countires and other less developed countries and also those in tax haven countries like Seychelles, Cayman island etc and war countries, who care? The laws there are very loose and all these emails, spams etc sent by their citizens or companies will not end up in trouble as the regulators are not strict. Worse is, will any British or Americans spend USD5000-USD10000 to sue the sender from Africa or Seychlelles or Iraq? After winning one case, they still have 1000 in the list and keep increasing. They will be broke or migh as well just give up.

 

 

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