Spam and Cookies

03 December 2003

Ruth Boardman

New guidance on the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations

If you carry out direct marketing by e-mail or your website uses cookies, then you will be affected by new Regulations that come into force on 11 December 2003 (the Privacy & Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations). New guidance on the Regulations has just been issued by the Information Commissioner's Office, which is responsible for enforcement.

The Regulations require organisations to get opt-in permission before carrying out marketing or promotional campaigns by e-mail. This rule even applies to much B2B marketing. It is also retrospective and applies to existing databases of e-mail contacts.

The Information Commissioner's guidance addresses the impact of the Regulations on legacy data and advises that the Commissioner will be "pragmatic" in this area. Organisations that have collected legacy data fairly (usually by offering an opt-out) and which have used the data recently can continue to market similar goods and services without needing to get new opt-in consent.

The guidance also covers:

  • exceptions to the e-mail marketing opt-in rule
  • rules on phone and fax marketing
  • pan-European marketing campaigns
  • loyalty schemes
  • charities.

The E-Privacy Regulations also include new rules on the use of cookies and new rules for internet service and telecom service providers. The Commissioner's guidance provides further advice on these areas as well.

Copies of the Commissioner's guidance are available from at Guidance/Compliance Advice.

For more information, please contact Ruth Boardman or Hazel Grant at our London Office on +44 (0) 20 7415 6000.