Apr 18

Legal principles surrounding email campaigning

Laws are not standard across Europe – depending on your market always check with the laws of the country you are dealing with. Below is a summary of the principles of UK law.

The basics

  • The nature of your message must be clear to the recipient from the start- you must not disguise the origin or purpose of the message.
  • You must always have an unsubscribe link (or  a way for users to unsubscribe).
  • Recipients must have opted in to receive your updates.

There are two exceptions to the opt in rule:

  • You can promote your business to employees of a Limited Company.
  • If someone has bought (or negotiated to buy) something from you, and provided their email address, you can promote related goods and services to them.
  • You must still provide an opt out service.

 ‘Forward to a Friend’ emails

  • If you are planning a ‘forward to a friend’ email then you must make it clear that the recipient should only forward the email to people who will be happy to receive it.
  • If you offer an incentive to people who forward the email, and it’s sent to people who are unhappy to receive it, then you are liable as the instigator of that email.
  • You cannot ask a receiver to provide you with other people’s email addresses, unless you have the specific consent of those individuals – whether directly to you or via the original recipient.


  • You can ask a recipient if they mind you passing on their details to a third party organisation to promote their products.
  • You must ensure, however,  that the third party is reputable and complies with the law
  • You can send genuine business-related emails to your existing customers, or to people who have left their details with you i.e. during an enquiry, provided the email is about a similar product/service.
  • You MUST NOT treat competitions etc. as a way of building a mailing list – recipients must actually request to opt in to receive promotional emails
  • You must ensure that the recipient has actually opted in. It is your responsibility to check this.
  • You must always keep up to date with the legal principles surrounding email marketing.
  • It may help to appoint somebody to do this.
  • Breaches of legal principles can be costly both monetary and in terms of reputation.
  • Always check the Data Protection Act- it is updated regularly and terms contained in the US version breach terms in the UK version.

Keep checking our news section for an update on Data Protection law and how it affects your business!

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