Guide

Marketing and advertising: the law

Last updated: 9 October 2017

Direct marketing

You must check if customers want to be contacted by fax, phone, post or email, and give them the chance to object.

When you collect customer details, you must get their permission if you want to send them other offers or promotions.

You must also ask for their permission if you want to share their information with another organisation.

Letting customers opt out

Customers have the right to stop their information being used for direct marketing.

You must make it easy to opt out - eg by sending a 'STOP' text to a short number, or using an 'unsubscribe' link.

Telesales and fax marketing

You must say who you are when you make a telesales call, and give your address or phone number if you're asked for it. The number for customers to call must be a freephone number.

You're not allowed to send marketing faxes to individuals unless you've received their prior permission, but you can send unsolicited faxes to companies.

You must check that you're not contacting anyone who's asked not to receive these calls or faxes, using the:

It's illegal to phone or fax someone registered with these services if you don't have their permission. You can be fined £5,000 for each unsolicited phonecall.

Automated calls

If you want to make automated calls - with pre-recorded phone messages - you must get the permission of the individual or business first.

Direct mail

Check that your mailing lists don't include anyone who's asked not to receive direct mailing, using the Mail Preference Service.

Email marketing and text messages

You're only allowed to send marketing emails to individual customers if they've given you permission.

Emails or text messages must clearly indicate:

  • who you are
  • that you're selling something
  • what the promotions are, and any conditions

Check that you aren't sending emails to anyone who's asked not to receive them, using the Email Preference Service.

If you buy or rent a mailing list, ask the supplier if you have the right to use it for email marketing.

Every marketing email you send must give the person the ability to opt out of (or 'unsubscribe from') further emails.

Cookies

You must tell visitors to your website how your site uses cookies, and ask if they want to accept them.

The information should be easy to understand.

Find out more about cookies on the Information Commissioner's Office website and AboutCookies.org.

Customers can complain if you misuse their information, and you could be ordered to pay a fine or compensation.

Marketing and advertising: the law
Direct marketing