Are Unsolicited Emails Illegal in the UK?

Email is arguably the most effective promotional tool accessible nowadays. More internet users have working email accounts in contrast to together with their social media accounts. Furthermore, it's staggeringly simple to use, and there are a plethora of email marketing tools currentlywhich make it seamless easy for marketers looking to create a campaign, upload a list, then send bulk emails immediately.

For all of email’s simplicity, a recurring challenge since its inception has been unsolicited emails. This blog will address the question of the legality of unsolicited emails in the UK. So, without further ado, let’s delve into the topic.

What are unsolicited emails?

Generally speaking, email correspondence is viewed as unsolicited (spam) if there is no earlier connection between the parties, and the recipient has not unequivocally agreed to get the communication.

That being said, unsolicited emails are simply digital junk involving direct marketing emails. It is perhaps fair to say that nearly most email users agree that spam is undesirable and seen as an irritation. However, it also poses security risks.

Nonetheless, it's advantageous to have a fundamental comprehension of the laws governing unsolicited emails in order to guarantee that your campaigns aren’t breaking any.

Email Marketing Laws in the UK

Principally, the two main email marketing laws in the UK concern GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and PECR (Privacy & Electronic Communication Regulation). In essence, GDPR regulates how a person’s data is stored while PECR dictates how they can be contacted electronically

GDPR does not directly set the conditions which pertain to sending unsolicited emails (spam) in the UK.

Rather, the direct legislation that governs this domain is the e-Privacy Directive 2002 that is instituted by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). The PECR legislature essentially regulates and specifically sets out the rules regarding unsolicited marketing emails in the UK.

What are the Laws regarding Unsolicited emails in the UK?

In practice, the UK Anti-spam law limits the sending of unsolicited promotional emails (spam) to individual subscribers, though such emails can be sent to corporate subscribers if the emails are pertinent to their work. This ‘anti-spam’/ PECR law is enforced by the Information Commissioner’s Office, and breaking it can prompt a fine of up to £500,000 or trigger civil liability–adequate deterrents.

Who isdoes the Law Applicable apply to?

While not clearly defined, solicited emails are presumably emails that beneficiaries explicitly request that you send them (whether directly or through a third party). In contrast, unsolicited email is any other email outside these criteria, and thus subject to the PECR law.

Companies can send emails to individuals who have agreed prior to receiving them, except where users are existing customers of a particular company. However, these spam restrictions not only apply to individual subscribers who are consumers but also sole traders and partners in business partnerships in the UK since they are still considered individuals.

On the other hand, you can send unsolicited emails to corporations, but these must always include an unsubscribe link or an opt-out clause. Such 'corporate subscribers' are typically limited companies but can also include schools, hospitals, government departments or agencies.

How to stop unsolicited emails?

The most common method of averting unsolicited emails is by leveraging the free filtering services rendered by ISPs where emails are redirected to a dedicated inbox folder. Other effective methods include.

  • Purchasing a private email filtering products specifically designed to identify and delete spam
  • Blocking and blacklisting spammers.
  • Masking one's email address from spammers.
  • Employing available services and tools designed to assist in tracking and reporting spam.

Final Remarks

All things considered, the anti-spam laws are designed to prevent spammers from acquiring an individual’s email addresses without their permission. Regardless of whether your customers reside in the UK, USA, Russia, UAE, Nigeria, India, Uganda, Korea, Brazil or any other nation, it is highly unethical to send unsolicited marketing emails without giving consumers the option to unsubscribe. Not to mention the fact that spamming is a highly ineffective method of generating leads. So make sure to keep your lists clean at all times. Your business will thank you in the long run.

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