New European email marketing restrictions come into force in the UK this week, but a new survey suggests many advertisers are unprepared.

From December 11, business-to-consumer marketers can only send commercial emails if they have prior permission from or an existing business relationship with the recipients. Failure to comply will incur fines of up to £5,000 ($8,636; €7,113) per breach of the code.

However, a study by Britain's Direct Marketing Association and database specialist Experian found that 30% of email marketers have not yet taken action to ensure they comply with the new opt-in regime. Moreover, 26% of non-email marketers are still confused about what the change involves.

The survey found 27% of all businesses are concerned that the new restrictions will curtail the number of people they can contact, and 3% believe the laws will stop them sending emails altogether. However, 50% of email marketers believe the end result of the new rules will be more responsive mailing lists and more effective campaigns.

The study also highlights the growing importance of email as a marketing tool. Some 89% of businesses now gather email addresses for use in campaigns, up from 39% in last year's report.

The new regulations were announced in September and mark the UK implementation of the European Union Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communication [WAMN: 22-Sep-03]. They will be policed by the Office of the Information Commission.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff