A study carried out by data and marketing company CDMS has revealed that 31% of UK companies are not complying with the EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications, more than two years after it became UK law in December 2003.
The European legislation which governs emails with private individuals, demands that companies only send unsolicited sales messages via email to non-customers if they have actively opted-in to receiving them.
Companies across industry sectors were tested to see whether they consistently offered non-customers the opportunity to opt-in to further marketing emails when their details were recorded as the result of a promotion or enquiry. These promotions appeared either on the company's own web site, through a partner company's website, in a third party e-newsletter, or as part of an advertising or direct mail campaign.
On average, 69% of companies studied are now compliant with the legislation, a small improvement of some three percentage points since 2005, despite the law having been in operation for almost three years.
Ian Hubbard of CDMS said that companies have come to view email marketing as almost exclusively a customer management and marketing channel, unless active permission has been obtained.
"Companies who have not complied are putting their carefully built brands at risk, by putting out the message to consumers that they apparently don't care about legislation designed to protect their prospective customers' privacy," he said. "This effectively puts them in the category of junk emailers, and associating them with a rising tide of spam, and growing consumer concerns over the security of their personal records."