Ethics, morals and the law
Just because it is legal to send newsletters, it does not mean that sending as many newsletters as possible is effective marketing. The greater the degree of consent given by your subscribers, the better the response to your newsletters. The opposite is true, too: the lesser the degree of consent you have, the worse the response you will receive – as well as, in the worst case, irritation directed against your company. Clear ethical guidelines reduce the risk of your emails being interpreted as spam.
Recipients with a negative approach will happily report your messages as spam, putting a spanner in the works for the future. Apart from the technical difficulties of deliverability, many people feel very strongly about spam. People become irritated, and some become unwilling to do business with the sender at all.
In summary: Do not send emails to people who do not want to receive them. When people subscribe, make it clear to them what they are agreeing to – and make it easy for them to unsubscribe.
Practical application of the law on email marketing
To ensure that you are not breaking any laws – whether written or unwritten – it is a good idea to write down a policy. Guidelines make the application of the law more tangible and can also act as a foundation for discussions on email marketing. You might say that information should only be sent by email provided that the following conditions are met:
- Information must only be sent to consumers where there is already an established customer relationship – for example, if the recipient has bought something or already subscribes to an existing newsletter
- The recipient must not have declined having their email address used for marketing purposes
- The marketing must relate to the company’s own products of the same nature as the one previously bought by the recipient
- The recipient must be given the opportunity to prevent their email address from being used for marketing purposes
- Email messages must contain a valid address to which the recipient can send a request for the marketing to cease
- The information in the newsletter must not contain anything that may be considered offensive or insulting, or to encourage a criminal act
- Show the source of consent everywhere. Add a link in the newsletter to source information about the subscription, for example: ‘By giving your active consent you have become a subscriber to the newsletter through your email address email@example.com. Your consent was given from “URL address” on 12 August 2006 at 2.17pm’.
- Set clear guidelines for Opting in and keep to these guidelines.
- Send confirmation via email. Note that we do not mean giving double consent, but rather simply a courteous email message thanking the recipient for wishing to receive information from you.
- Show where the exit is. Always have a link for unsubscribing in your email
Address handling – ethical application in practice
Of course, an address policy is required. The various Personal Data Acts are there to protect the integrity of the individual on the Internet. According to them, it is illegal to store personal data without the individual’s consent. Nor should you provide information to a third party; quite simply, the consent no longer applies.
Provisions of the Swedish Personal Data Act
Definitions of some terms:
According to the Act, personal data is defined as: All kinds of information that may, directly or indirectly, be traced to a physical person. This includes, for example, an email in the format: firstname.lastname@example.org, as it is possible to find out who is hiding behind the address. Furthermore, personal data – in this case email addresses and, in some cases, names, companies, etc. – must be stored appropriately. In other words, it must be clear to those registering for a newsletter what they are registering for.
‘Consent includes any kind of voluntary, specific and unequivocal expression of a wish through which the person who has registered, having been provided with information, accepts the processing of personal data relating to him or her.’
For those carrying out email marketing, this means opt-in: we ask for permission to store addresses and send newsletters. People who have registered can also withdraw their consent. If a person unsubscribes, the address must disappear.
Different degrees of consent
There is no higher level of consent than the double Opt-in. It creates goodwill through
its seriousness, although few companies use it.
According to a survey by Silverpop, only around 5 per cent of the Fortune 500 companies use double Opt-in.