Is Cold Emailing Illegal in the UK?

To keep the answer simple, No!

This means that your company will not be considered a spammer if you try to reach out to your prospects through cold emails. The law stipulates that reaching out to potential business contacts that you don't know personally or haven't communicated before won't be treated as spam.

What is a cold email?

A cold email is an email message sent to a receiver who has no prior contact with you in order to gain some benefits in terms of sales, favour or opportunity.

During the mid-1990s, when the internet became popular, companies started to opt for this invasive approach for marketing. And this resulted in bombarding people's inboxes with various advertisement emails. This is when various laws and enforcements took birth.

GDPR on cold emailing

The European Parliament adopted the GDPR in 2016 that contains various provisions to protect citizens' personal data and privacy.

The GDPR lays down specific rules for the companies to follow while sending various marketing messages through emails. It affects how your business stores, collects and processes various personal data collected from the users.

If you are planning to send cold emails, make sure that the use of data is as per the strict regulations laid by the GDPR. Non-compliance can result in penalties or fines up to €20 million.

Read more about GDPR in our article on “Email marketing under GDPR

How to send cold emails in compliance with the GDPR?

GDPR lays down guidelines on how to use customer data. As per article 6 of the GDPR companies can use personal data of an individual for any of the six reasons.

  • To fulfil a contract for the customer.
  • The customer has given you explicit permission to use the data.
  • To protect the vital interest of the person.
  • To pursue legitimate interests.
  • To fulfil a legal obligation.
  • To carry out a task in the public interest.

How to send cold emails in the UK?

If you are a marketer, you could use the following tips to send cold emails.

1. Obtain the customer’s permission

If you plan to send cold emails, make sure that your customer has permitted you to do so. To do so, ensure the following:

  • Be explicit and clear. The customer should have permitted you to send cold emails directly and clearly.
  • Have a specific purpose. If consent is given for you to send out blog newsletters; the data should not be used for any other purpose. This means refraining from bombarding your reader's inboxes with marketing emails.

2. Quick opt-out strategy

You should provide your customers an easy option to opt-out of consent if they please. Once the approval is withdrawn, you need to delete their data.

To save their data in your database, you need to have explicit permission even if the data is freely accessible via the internet.

In short, you cannot send cold emails to a potential customer without their documented consent.

3. Provide accurate company details

When sending cold emails, make sure that you provide your company's full address in the email. Do not try to hide any contact details as it will have serious legal consequences.

4. Add appropriate subject lines

This is an important thing that marketers should keep in mind while sending out cold emails. Make sure that the subject line is in alignment with the email content.

5. Identify email as an ad

If your email is an advertisement, make sure that you label it appropriately to let the reader know before opening the email.

Final Words

After the enactment of the GDPR, cold emailing can be a tricky thing to do. One wrong email and your organisation could end up getting sued to pay thousands of Euros as fine.

However, if you’re careful and have taken note of the relevant factors mentioned in this article, you can send cold emails to your potential customers within the limits of the law.

The article is a part of our comprehensive guide on “Email Marketing in the UK”.