Britain Hammers Spammers but Defies DMA

22 September 2003

The British government has unveiled a raft of new regulations restricting email, SMS and telephone marketing.

As expected, the new laws forbid commercial email or text messages unless the recipient has given permission – known as an ‘opt-in’ regime. These restrictions apply only to business-to-consumer marketing, leaving business-to-business exempt.

More controversial, however, is the government’s insistence that companies gain the same right as consumers to sign up to a do-not-call telephone marketing list, despite fierce lobbying from the Direct Marketing Association.

After the proposal first appeared in draft regulations, the DMA told ministers the financial and logistical implications of allowing businesses to register with the Telephone Preference Service would be devastating for B2B marketers, and small enterprises in particular [WAMN: 25-Aug-03]. However, the government has restated its desire to extend the TPS to corporate subscribers next year.

The opt-in rules were introduced Thursday but will not come into effect until December 11 to give businesses time to adjust. The Department of Trade and Industry has put the Office of the Information Commission in charge of enforcing them.

Breaches of the code will incur penalties of up to £5,000 ($8,135; €7,191) in a magistrates court or unlimited fines if the case goes before a jury. In addition, parties who have suffered damages due to a violation will be able to sue.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff