Changes in the law mean that your latest online marketing campaign could be illegal. Christine Read, from the Institute of Direct Marketing's legal partner Manches, explains how to keep within the law

1) No more unsolicited emails According to the Information Commissioner unsolicited it means “uninvited”. So if the recipient has indicated that he/she has no objection to receiving emails from you, you'll be safe. The new Regulations define email as “any text, voice, sound or image message sent over a public electronic communications network, including a short message service” so text messages are treated just like an email.

It is permitted, however, to send emails marketing your own goods or services to individuals whose details you have obtained in the course of a sale or negotiations for a sale of similar goods or services.

2) Marketing to business

Sometimes it's not easy to distinguish between marketing materials and a press release. Is a charity soliciting a donation direct marketing? Direct marketing includes sending any message by direct means aimed at informing or soliciting a response from the data subject, and according to the Direct Marketing this includes sales promotions and fund raising. You aren't allowed to send unsolicited emails for the purpose of direct marketing to individual subscribers unless you have the recipient's consent but this doesn't stop you sending marketing emails to corporate subscribers.

3) Have you got consent?

The term isn't defined, but it must be freely given, specific and informed. It does not need to be in writing and you can imply it from an action. So if you ask for someone's details, making it clear to them that you will use those details to send them marketing emails, the act of giving you the details will imply consent.
Even if you have received consent you still have to give individuals a simple and free means of opting out of receiving direct marketing mails when you collect the details and every time you contact them.

4) Is your information reliable?

You can use your old marketing database provided you have obtained the details recently and in accordance with the law. This means you must have told the individual who you are and the purposes for which you will use his/her data when you collected it.

5) In or outside the UK?

Even within Europe, member states have implemented the European Directive differently, so the rules will not always be the same. Various States in the US have anti-spam laws, and the penalties in the US can be much higher.

6) What about cookies?

Cookies are OK so long as you give comprehensive information about the purposes for which you use the data you collect, and the opportunity to refuse the cookie. The information need only be given the first time you use a cookie.