A review of the EC directive for SMS marketing
SMS marketing is considered an electronic form of communication. That means its use is governed by the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations. It may sound scary, but it really isn’t that hard to understand. However, in light of my last blog I thought it worthwhile to go over the basics of the EC Directive to help you better understand what you can and can’t do with your SMS marketing.
In the warning the ICO issued to Optical Express discussed in the last blog, several key paragraphs from the EC Directive are quoted. They basically say that no one can send unsolicited messages to any individual without prior consent. It then goes on to state three criteria used to determine what consent means (from Regulation 22):
“A person may send or instigate the sending of electronic mail for the purposes of direct marketing where –
(a) that person has obtained the contact details of the recipient of that electronic mail in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service to that recipient;
(b) the direct marketing is in respect of that person’s similar products and services only; and
(c) the recipient has been given a simple means of refusing (free of charge except for the costs of the transmission of the refusal) the use of his contact details for the purposes of such direct marketing, at the time that the details were initially collected, and where he did not initially refuse the use of details, at the time of each subsequent communication.”
That is honestly a mouthful of words, but very important ones. Here’s a simple interpretation.
If you gather someone’s mobile number while you are selling them something, then you can be safe sending them marketing messages related to that sale. For example, if a customer purchases a house from you then you can send them marketing messages about other services you provide for home buyers. But you can’t send them marketing messages about buying cars or for special deals on a holiday in Australia. While these other things may be part of your business too, they don’t relate to the purchase they made from you initially.
In another example, if someone purchases a trip to Australia from you, you can freely send them information about their trip to Australia. You could also send them marketing messages about other trips you offer, though you do want to be sure to limit those to ones you know they are interested in. And if you do send marketing messages about other trips, part c above becomes very important. With every message you send them about the next trip, make sure they can opt out easily with a simple reply message.
Following these guidelines should keep you within the law, and also help you keep happy customers. And happy customers keep coming back, whatever business you’re in.
Executed properly, SMS direct marketing is a hugely effective and successful means of building customer loyalty and improving sales. But even genuine and honest marketing companies can suffer huge damage to reputation or even break the law through simply lacking knowledge or not double-checking before releasing campaigns. Read this article to learn more about the definitions of spamming and harassment, current UK law and how to avoid simple but costly mistakes.
Yet another company (Quigley and Carter Limited) have been fined by the ICO for not having permission to send SMS messages. In this case, they had outsourced their marketing to a third party who then sent messages on their behalf. So is staying compliant with the regulations regarding SMS messaging so difficult? It doesn’t have to be.
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