- You can't send marketing mail to someone you've never done business with unless they have explicitly told you that they consent. Consenting to a third party doesn't count (e.g. the "do you consent for our partners to send you marketing emails" tick boxes aren't allowed).
- If you've previously done business with someone then you can send them marketing emails about "related products" so long as they either opted in, or did not opt out. However, the ICO's guidance says that where an opt-out system is used, the opt-out mechanism must be very clear and prominent at the point where the contact details were collected.
I've been sending notices to both groups for a while, pointing out that they are acting unlawfully, and for the most part I've had no response and continue to receive spam from them. Where organisations have ignored these notices, I've filed complaints with the Information Commissioner's Office. Unfortunately, the ICO's response seems to amount to writing to the offending companies and doing nothing else.
As of the start of the year, I have started sending preaction notices to legitimate British companies who's spam ends up in my inbox. This opens the door to me being able to file a court case against them if I so wish.
VisionDirect is one company who I have made purchases from - I have bought contact lens solutions from them, and usually purchase a year's worth of solutions at a time. As a result, they have also been spamming me for at least 2 years. The frequency of emails varied, but it was as much as one email a week towards the end of last year, offering me things that are extremely tangentially related to contact lenses - e.g. "win 2 LUXE London Fashion Weekend tickets".
I've previously complained to VisionDirect and my complaints have been met with absolutely no response (and continued spamming). I sent them a preaction notice on Tuesday, and less than a week later I've now had a apologetic phone call from them. They did confirm:
- They're aware that the ICO guidance is to use an opt-in rather than opt-out system, but have chosen to ignore it.
- They claim there would have been an opt-out box that I hadn't ticked. This can't have been very prominent if I missed it.
- Their excuse for opting people in by default is so that they can send contact lens reorder reminders. Given that they know from my order that I wouldn't need to reorder for a year, I'm not sure why they think this justified sending me 4-5 emails a month.
Thank you VisionDirect for finally unsubscribing me from your spam list, and if you review your marketing practices so that you're not continuing to act unlawfully then that's great. It's a shame that you ignored the previous emails and it has taken the threat of court action for you to take note.