ICO publishes updated direct marketing guidance

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has recently updated its guidance for businesses on Direct Marketing; this comes as further penalties of £225,000 are issued to two companies for unwanted PPI and home improvement calls.

The newly updated ICO guide is a key tool to help businesses comply with their obligations relating to direct marketing under both the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (PECR). There has been a large amount of press associated with the problems of direct marketing and, with large fines being issued by the ICO, businesses would be wise to adhere to the guidance. Direct marketing is commonplace and covers “communication of any advertising or marketing which is directed to particular individuals” which includes calls, emails and texts to individuals.

Many organisations will be familiar with the guide however, as of the 24 March, the guidance has been updated in a number of ways such as: 

  • A greater focus on not-for-profit organisations, including scenario based examples, which reflects the ICO’s work within the sector. It is clear the ICO wish to emphasise that charities and other not-for-profit organisations are not exempt from the law and must adhere to the same standards as other businesses;
  • More detailed guidance surrounding third-party consent as this is an ongoing area of issue for organisations, the guidance includes clear directions including example phrases which are likely or unlikely to demonstrate compliance with the law; and
  • Freely given consent is emphasized as an important factor in direct marketing. Consent should be freely given and should not be a condition of subscribing to a service unless the coupling of that service and direct marketing can be justified.

ICO Guides, such as this, may be given specific statutory recognition in the future as announced recently by Baroness Neville Rolfe at the Direct Marketing Association Data Protection Conference and supported by Steve Wood on the ICO’s blog but until then they act as useful instrument in assisting organisations with compliance. The ICO’s guide can be found here.

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