By Brian Davidson, CIPP/E

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has released its new direct marketing guidance to assist organisations in understanding their obligations when carrying out direct marketing campaigns—including issues around lead- generation and marketing lists and setting out what enforcement action the ICO can undertake for those organisations that ignore the UK marketing rules.

The guidance, published 9 September, arrives as the ICO continues to focus on the problems posed by nuisance calls and SMS messages. The ICO has been actively encouraging individuals to report nuisance calls to it in order to undertake enforcement action and has been working with other organisations in the marketing sectors to formulate joint policy initiatives. It has also called on the UK Parliament to reduce the harm-threshold requirement under the current law—currently “causing substantial damage” or “substantial distress”—to “annoyance” or “nuisance” in order to allow further enforcement action to be taken against a wider category of organisations that are understood to be carrying out regular unwanted and nuisance calls.

The guidance sets out the key rules for organisations when conducting marketing activities across the different communication mediums, such as e-mail, SMS, telephone calls, etc., and begins with 10 key bullet-point considerations that organisations should be aware of, including a helpful  “direct marketing checklist,” which provides organisations with key “must-dos” for obtaining customer consent for marketing campaigns; making calls; using bought-in marketing lists, and sending SMS messages or e-mails. Helpfully, the 44-page guidance also includes many practical examples for organisations to assess and understand what activities the ICO considers as lawful good practice and what activities are not considered as such.

The guidance also refers to other laws and regulations which may be applicable to marketing campaigns, i.e., not just the UK Data Protection Act (DPA) and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) but also the Communications Act and CAP Code.

It also warns organisations of the dangers of “sugging,” or selling products to consumers under the guise of market research—which will therefore require compliance with the relevant provisions of the DPA and PECR—and includes a detailed section on what constitutes consent, including how to obtain it and the time limits on the use of such consent.

The guidance also sets out some key considerations for online marketing activities, for example, displaying personalised adverts based on browsing and purchasing history and login information, and for non-targeted and contextual marketing, i.e., targeted to the content of the web page itself rather than to the identity or characteristics of the user. The guidance states that the applicability of the DPA depends on whether such advertising activities involve the processing of personal data—as would be the case when displaying personalised adverts to users.

Finally, the guidance includes helpful information on the use of lead-generation and the purchase, creation and sale of marketing lists, stating that lists created in-house generally create less compliance risks than those presented by lists obtained from an external third party, owing to the ease to which accuracy and verification checks can be carried out in the case of the former.

The guidance is available here.

Brian Davidson, CIPP/E, is a privacy and information law advisor at Field Fisher Waterhouse, LLP.


If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.


Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Advertise in IAPP Publications

Find out how to get your message in front the people you want to reach. Download a media kit now.

Get more News »

Find a KnowledgeNet Chapter Near You

Network and talk privacy at IAPP KnowledgeNet meetings, taking place worldwide.

Women Leading Privacy

Events, volunteer opportunities and more designed to help you give and get career support and expand your network.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

The Training Post—Can’t-Miss Training Updates

Subscribe now to get the latest alerts on training opportunities around the world.

New Web Conferences Added!

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Staff

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Get Close-up

Looking for tools and info on a hot topic? Our close-up pages organize it for you in one easy-to-find place.

Where's Your DPA?

Our interactive DPA locator helps you find data protection authorities and summary of law by country.

IAPP Westin Research Center

See the latest original research from the IAPP Westin fellows.

Looking for Certification Study Resources?

Find out what you need to prepare for your exams

More Resources »

GDPR Comprehensive: Registration Open

New! Intensive two-day GDPR training led by the sharpest minds in the field. It's a can't-miss event.

The Congress Is Cancelled

The IAPP Europe Data Protection Congress 2015 is cancelled. Click through to learn more.

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

Exhibit at an Event

Put your brand in front of the largest gatherings of privacy pros in the world. Learn more.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»