Business emails and the law
Understanding email and the law will help your business avoid ruinous financial penalties and legal problems...
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Email is still one of the most accessible marketing channels available to small businesses. And, with tools like CRM software allowing you to create eye-catching emails and then send them, en masse, to targeted lists of contacts, email marketing in 2020 has never been so easy, effective, and affordable.
Affordable, that is, until you end up on the wrong side of the law, and have to pay a hefty fine. We’ve compiled this guide to help you avoid doing just that – so read on to find out how you can navigate the tricky relationship between business emails and the law in the UK.
Email compliance regulations
According to Gov.uk’s page on marketing and advertising, you can only send marketing emails to customers who:
- Have consented to electronic mail from you
- Or, have bought a similar product or service from you in the past, and you provide a simple way to opt out in every marketing message you send them. This is sometimes known as a ‘soft opt-in’
You must not disguise or conceal your identity, and must provide a valid contact address so the customer can opt out or unsubscribe.
Marketing emails to businesses fall under similar rules. Like customers, sole traders and some partnerships are treated as individuals, meaning they can’t be contacted unless they’ve consented.
However, you can send an unsolicited email to any corporate organisation, limited liability partnership, or government body. But remember: if you’re messaging individuals with personal corporate email addresses, there may be GDPR considerations.
For example, if you’re sending an email to email@example.com, Jo has the right to object to their personal data being used for marketing purposes.
Many of us have received emails with a disclaimer at the bottom of the page. These disclaimers are often very “legal” sounding and are designed to protect the sender from legal action.
The reality is that the courts will probably not uphold the disclaimer but it might help your case.
Most disclaimers cover breaches of confidentiality, propagation of viruses, contractual claims and employee liability. Some disclaimers seem to go on forever!
There’s no one-size-fits-all disclaimer, as what you disclaim will depend on the nature of your business.
If you think it’s necessary to include a disclaimer in your business emails, seek legal advice on its effectiveness.
Alternatively, you can look into sending your emails with a CRM system. This software helps you automate GDPR compliance by automatically adding a footer (that contains the essential information you need to satisfy your legal responsibilities) to the bottom of your emails. If you accidentally delete it, the system will remind you – or add it in again before you hit ‘send'.
Explore our guide to the best CRM systems for small businesses, or get in touch with them now. Simply click one of the thumbs below to get started on your CRM journey, and begin comparing quotes from leading suppliers.
Legal requirements for email footers
The most recent legislation – the UK Companies Act 2006 (amended 2007) states that any private or public limited company, or a Limited Liability Partnership, must include the following:
- Company name
- Company registration number
- Place of registration (e.g. Scotland or England & Wales)
- Registered office address (which may be different from the office you trade from)
All business emails must now contain this data, whether a director or a dogsbody. If you are a sole trader, the requirement does not apply.
It’s sensible to create a legally sound template footer that can used company-wide. Here's an example of a footer you're expected to include at the bottom of each commercial email you send:
Monitoring email traffic
As an employer you are able to monitor email traffic to and from your business, to ensure security and protect your business. But you need to let people know…
A typical statement would be:
The specific monitoring of employee emails is subject to a raft of legislation out of the scope of this article. Again, if this is an issue for you then take legal advice or you may find yourself in hot water with the authorities.
GDPR and email
It hit a lot of companies that relied on vast email databases hard.
According to the official GDPR website, personal data is…
An identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person.
It is, of course, possible to use some of this information without individuating someone. Problems arise when you collect a combination of information that clearly identifies someone.
As fines for the most severe GDPR breaches can amount to €20 million (£17.6 million), or 4% of global annual turnover (whichever is higher), best practice is to err on the side of caution.
Have an audit performed of your whole digital marketing strategy, including:
- Privacy notices
- Customer and prospect data
- The service providers you use for data storage, processing and marketing
CRM software is available from as little as £10 per user, per month, with some free options available, too. CRM software can help you create, personalise, and send emails in bulk, all while ensuring you remain GDPR-compliant.
According to the Information Commissioner, current legislation does not apply to ‘legacy lists’. This includes:
- Any addresses you had at 31 October 2003
- That has been contacted in the last 12 months
- That was collected in compliance with contemporary law
- That haven’t told you to stop contacting them
Once again, if you don’t have an in-house legal team, seek council from a qualified professional.
Remember, CRM software is an extremely valuable tool for small businesses running email campaigns.
As well as storing and segmenting invaluable customer information, CRM software allows you to send highly targeted and personalised marketing emails instantly. And, crucially, a CRM system can help you communicate in a way that is compliant, and entirely safe in the eyes of the law.
To start comparing different CRM systems, and get quotes from leading cloud-based CRM providers, let us help. Simply furnish us with a few details about your business' requirements, and we'll match you with supplier best-suited to your specific needs. The form itself takes about 30 seconds to complete, and all quotes are completely free.