back to article WAIT! Don't you dare send that ad-spaff email without 'specific' consent

Organisations need to obtain "extremely clear and specific" consent from individuals in order to conduct direct marketing to them via email or through any other form of electronic marketing message, according to new guidelines. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said that rules set out in the UK's Privacy and …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How about...

    ...decoupling the requirement to sign up to a mailbox full of spam from actually doing business with an organisation?

    There are still those out there that require you to sign up to their marketing campaigns as part of the T&Cs of doing business with them - i.e. e-mail is an all-or-nothing communication mechanism, if you have an account with us we'll send you marketing guff, if you want to close the account we'll stop sending you marketing guff, but you won't be able to buy anything from us.

    Granted, customer's right to choose, etc... But I don't see why getting the same product cheaper should mean I end up with a mailbox full of spam.

    1. thesykes

      Re: How about...

      doesn't this bit cover your concerns?

      "... and must have had a genuine choice – consent cannot be a condition of subscribing to a service"

  2. stucs201

    Sounds good...

    ...but will it actually get enforced?

    1. edge_e
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Sounds good...

      Do you really need me to answer that?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fine...up to £500,000...

    Given the scale of many direct marketing budgets, these days, I don't see how this will be too much of a deterent - Why isn't there a 'take down the worst-case offending businesses' aspect to all this?

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Fine...up to £500,000...

      It's fine, as long as the fine is per offence, i.e. for everyone contacted, and for each occasion.

      Personally, they can find my consent in the locked file cabinet in the disused lavatory in the unlit cellar with no stairs behind the sign saying 'beware of the leopard'.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Fine...up to £500,000...

        "It's fine, as long as the fine is per offence, i.e. for everyone contacted, and for each occasion."

        I've pointed this out to the ICO on several occasions. They regard an offence as one investigation, no matter how many breaches have occured, over how long a period.

        It's this lax attitude which has led rogues to treat the fines as a cost of doing business.

  4. Crisp

    "any other form of electronic marketing message"

    Here's hoping that includes automated dialers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "any other form of electronic marketing message"

      And the marketing scum that seem to get around the TPS rules because of some technicality about "research".

  5. Natalie Gritpants

    Death penalty for companies

    We started executing people in earnest when the police and courts could no cope with the scale of crime just after the industrial revolution. We stopped when crime rates fell and we found we were executing children and innocents. We should do the same with companies.

    Maybe not close the entire business but just that facet of the business that is guilty, e.g. Ban talktalk from broadband ISP for all the crap I get but not close their mobile phone operation.

    1. Pseu Donyme

      Re: Death penalty for companies

      ... or maybe a categorical marketing ban for a fixed period? (akin to prison sentence, could come with a probation period too)

  6. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    £500,000 fine? You're having a giraffe.

    If Malcolm the plumber from up the road dumps an anwanted flier once a year through my letter box he gets done.

    But "Hello" who appears to be from Punjabistanishire and is not actually selling me anything but apparently knows I so desperately need to be eco friendly that he rings ten times a day to offer me 10% off a conservatory for my fourth floor flat can't be stopped ...

    Perhaps arses and elbows need to be inspected.

  7. vagabondo


    Does the use of "individuals" mean that the spammers can claim that they "intended" to spam business mail addresses, and thus are covered by the Tony Blair/Direct Marketing Ass. spammers exemption.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Opt in - dream on

    So an end to those boxes (SMS, email, etc etc) that weren't there when you signed up, but miraculously appear, per filled, when you login six months later. Untick them and get the message "it may take 28 days to remove you from the list (thanks Plusnet). Funny, as it only took a nanosecond to add you.

    Then there's the Dennis publishing approach; 8 boxes in 2 rows, four ticked, four unticked. One row requires you untick to avoid spam, the other that you tick to avoid it. Cynical bollocks, conceived by wankers.

    Then there's barclaycard ( and a good number of others) when send you marketing that isn't; a monthly exhortation to transfer blah blah. Can them for the nth time to reiterate that when you said no marketing crap, you meant it, and they'll tell you that it qualifies as 'correspondence', presumably in another language.

    And it goes on and on and on....

    I don't think Ark 'B' will be large enough at all. We need an Ark 'D' entirely for the class of shitbag that thinks this crap is ok, set on a collision course for something airless and nasty.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Opt in - dream on

      ...and Virgin Media who keep on sending a monthly "join us" A4 mailshot to "Householder" at my address. They repeatedly assure me that I am on their "no mail" list. Presumably that only applies to my specific name at my address. To add insult to injury Royal Mail also deliver an unaddressed copy of the same mailshot at about the same time.

      There are not many brands for which I have a pathological hatred - but Virgin in all flavours is top of the list.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Opt in - dream on

        BT pulled one that I assume can only apply to those in flats, or at least addresses where one part is internal to the building. I'd left BT having long ago told them to stop sending marketing; at first they sent stuff addressed to the 'householder', but about a year on I got a sudden flurry of mail addressed to me, but without the separate 'Flat A' on the top line, just the house and street number. I thought at first (far, far too charitably) that a database had got mangled and lost the top line, so no match to either their list of opt outs or the DMA run MPS. but then it popped up in conversation that others had the same thing. After the second in a month I lost patience and complained to the DMA, who to my knowledge did nothing. However I did add the truncated version to the MPS list and the BT effluent dried up a couple of months later. Their next move will probably be swapping flat numbers around...

        Yes, Virgin. We get a 'householder' one about once a month, plus the Royal Mail distributed duplicate. We used to get virtually weekly exhortations addressed to the guy who previously lived here 'or current occupier', till I added him to the MPS too.

        There's two companies I wouldn't go near with a barge pole - what's the point of antagonising?

    2. Rukario

      Re: Opt in - dream on

      > We need an Ark 'D' entirely for the class of shitbag that thinks this crap is ok, set on a collision course for something airless and nasty.

      We need to feed them to the enormous mutant star goat.

  9. janimal

    Are you listening Vodafone?

    Hopefully you will now accept my monthly opt-out for text messages on a more permanent basis you bastards.

  10. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    So what

    about the companies that setup a sub contractor abroad then go "not under british jurestriction"

    Or worse still, sell your details to various foriegn marketeers who then spam you.

    Oh brb phone call.... no I dont want to claim &%^&$&^&ppi , workplace comp, sue the bloke outside for farting in my general direction

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  12. Harry

    Too little, too late, and in too many words

    What it *should* say is something shorter, sharper and more to the point, like:

    * consent must be opt-in, not opt out

    * it must be a completely separate choice from any other options

    * it may not be obtained as part of a contract

    * consent must apply only to the specific classes of products and services that the user has *individually* chosen and not used to benefit parent or sister companies, or third parties unless used exclusively for the benefit of the original company

    * it must be possible to opt out at any time (or to refuse to opt in) without penalty or refusal of service in any way.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Too little, too late, and in too many words

      * Rules should NOT exempt political, religious or other kinds of advertising. (fat chance of that!)

      * Rules should include a right of private action (small claims court) with mandatory statutory damages (this means that offenders can't argue that £500 is unjustified).

      * Rules should make the advertiser and the company they're advertising for, joint and severally liable (this makes it a lot harder to hide - follow the money, etc)

      * Rules should include criminal penalties for failure to consult the Do Not Call lists (plus mandatory triple damages, in the case of private action)

      * Rules MUST NOT stop enforcement action if the principals are determined to be outside the UK.

      The FCC has quite happily gone after TCPA violaters based in the UK and German authorities have been kicking down doors all over the EU when it comes to illegal marketing. UK regulators are seen as a soft touch.

      Seriously, the ICO and Ofcom are for too timid, slow and bloated.

      Allowing a right of private action is the item which will slow this kind of provacy breach right down. Businesses which have been hoodwinked by marketing companies will have to swallow a very bitter pill and then recover it via private legal action, etc.

      Once you get it to the point where anyone reputable won't touch things with a bargepole then you're left with the terminally niave (who will get educated quickly when money becomes involved) and the criminals. They can only shut down and restart a few entities before it becomes apparent what they're doing and criminal activity allows "piercing the corporate veil" - going after the people behind the company, not the company itself.

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