Advice on direct marketing

Section 11(3) of the Data Protection Act (‘the Act’) defines direct marketing as “the communication (by whatever means) of any advertising or marketing material which is directed to particular individuals” and section 11(1) of the Act “allows individuals to require a data controller to cease, or not begin, processing personal data for the purposes of direct marketing”.

This covers all forms of communications, including contact by post, fax, telephone and electronic messages.

The Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations 2003 (PECR) regulate in detail the use of electronic communications (any text, voice, sound or image message sent over a public electronic communications network eg email, SMS text) as a form of marketing.

To elaborate on the Act’s definition of direct marketing, the Information Commissioner says “it includes messages trying to sell goods or services and those promoting an organisation or its values or beliefs”. Information promoting University events or opportunities for students could constitute direct marketing and therefore it is important that the University is aware of these definitions and regulations when sending large mailouts or mass emails / SMS text messages.

The easiest way to ensure compliance with the regulations governing direct marketing is by obtaining consent when contact details are collected. This can be done by including an ‘opt-in’ box and ensuring that any messages that could fall within the direct marketing definition are sent only to those people who have opted in. All subsequent marketing communications that are sent should also contain an opt out along the lines of:

"If you do not wish to receive any further messages from this mailing list, please email 'Unsubscribe' to: [generic email address]"

If you have any issues regarding direct marketing please contact the Information Rights Officer at: