While the great email marketing opt-in/opt-out debate has raged, other crucial new regulations directly affecting e-mail marketers have been quietly approaching.
Topic: e-mail marketing
New development: UK implementation of the EU Electronic Commerce Directive
There are currently three EU Directives which make specific reference to e-mail marketing. One, (the Distance Selling Directive) is already in force in the UK, the second (the E-commerce Directive) is due to be implemented across Europe by 16 January 2002, and the third (the Directive concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector-"Communications Data Protection Directive" for short) is still in draft and being debated in Brussels, with the next significant discussion due in September 2001.
The Distance Selling Directive gave member states the option of introducing either an opt-in or opt-out e-mail marketing regime. At least 6 member states have gone for opt-in to date. The UK has introduced no legislation on this aspect, so we presently have a self regulatory opt-out system here, run by the DMA through the e-mail preference service or "eMPS." Individuals can register free not to receive unsolicited commercial e-mails, while marketers can clean their email lists against the register for $100 a year.
So far, take-up has not been great on either side, but the DMA is contemplating wider promotion of the scheme.
The third directive is the draft Communications Data Protection Directive. This seeks to introduce either a blanket opt-out regime across Europe for unsolicited e-mail or a blanket opt-in.. The UK government is to press hard for blanket opt-out, but it's still all to play for.
The second in our list, the E-Commerce Directive, is the subject of a consultation document just published by the UK government. The Regulations which will implement the Directive in the UK are not yet available, even in draft, but they must follow the Directive and will therefore make five significant changes to the e-mail marketing regime in the UK.
What will change:
First, all e-mail marketers must give, in any e-mail messages and all other on-line marketing communications, at least their name, geographic address, e-mail contact details and details of any supervisory authority to which they belong. Second, all solicited e-mail communications must be identifiable as such somewhere in the e-mail. Thirdly, both unsolicited and solicited marketing e-mails must identify the person or company on whose behalf they are sent. Fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, unsolicited marketing e-mails must be clearly identifiable as such as soon as they are received so that they can be deleted without the need to read them. This appears to mean that the subject box must in some way make it clear that the e-mail is for marketing purposes. Finally, the UK will have to ensure that senders of unsolicited marketing e-mails "consult regularly and respect" opt-out registers through which they can indicate that they do not wish to receive such communications in the future.
All these changes have been finalised for some time, but have received little attention. One suspects that the publication of this document will change all that and marketers will need to keep a close eye on progress towards finalisation of the implementing Regulations. Also, if they wish to have any say in how the Regulations are worded, now is the time to make submissions.
Implementation of the Directive is due by 16 January 2002.
What happens next:
The deadline for comments and submissions on the consultation document is 2 November 2001. Draft UK Regulations will then be drawn up, presumably with a view to these being circulated for final comment shortly afterwards in time to come into force on or shortly after the 16 January 2002 target.