Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Don''t get caught out by new e-mail legislation

New rules on SPAM and Cookies affect millions of businesses from October

New rules on SPAM and Cookies affect millions of businesses from October

Businesses operating websites and/or sending electronic communications to customers have less than six months to comply with a new EU directive, or face falling foul of the law. From October 2003, opting-in will be compulsory for marketing e-mails, and the use of website cookies will be more stringently regulated.

Critically, an EU-wide ''opt-in'' approach is to be adopted for SPAM, meaning that businesses will only be permitted to send marketing e-mails and SMS messages to individuals who have previously consented to the use of their details in this way. Existing customers may be targeted, provided certain conditions are met, although there is still some uncertainty about the precise scope of mailing existing database contacts.

Malcolm Hollingsworth of eShotz explains: The new directive represents a change of emphasis rather than a change in the substance of data protection obligations, but could have serious consequences for any business not getting up to speed on the new laws. Businesses need to address the changes now, both to ensure that their channels to market are compliant, and to ensure that previously valuable customer databases are still useable for future marketing campaigns.

As well as new e-mail marketing laws affecting all who send e-mails for marketing purposes, website operators also need to tighten up on how they collect and use customer data. Web operators must provide users with clear and comprehensive information about devices such as cookies used to collect their data, including the purpose of any processing.