Direct Marketing Regulations UK: The Law

Businesses need specific consent to send most types of direct marketing messages to customers. There are grave penalties for breaking the direct marketing rules in United Kingdom.

Emails, fax, phone, and by post are among the most common ways to sell products or services direct to the public.

But, you must check whether your potential customers want to be contacted by any of these methods.

Note: You also need to provide customers with an option to refuse and be able to prove that you have done so.

As a rule, using this type of direct marketing policy means you will be collecting personal details from your customers.

If so, you would need to get permission before you send them any further marketing offers or promotions. Besides that, you need their permission to share their personal details with any other organisation.

The Right for Customers to Opt Out

UK laws grant consumers the right to stop businesses using their information in direct marketing. You must give them a simple method of opting out of the system. There are several ways of achieving this, such as:

  • Allowing them to send a ‘STOP’ text to a short number.
  • Letting them use an ‘unsubscribe’ link.

Fax and Telesales Marketing

If your business makes telesales calls you would need to announce who is making the call. If the customer asks for your address or your telephone number, you would need to provide it. If you are offering a response number for customers to call back it must be one of the freephone numbers.

You would need their express permission to send marketing faxes to individuals. But, the law allows you to send unsolicited faxes to companies.

Also, you must check that you are not contacting someone who does not want the contact – and be able to prove that you checked. Several services allow you to check who has asked not to receive calls or faxes, such as:

Note: Faxing or phoning someone registered with these services is illegal unless you have their permission. Each unsolicited phone call can result in a fine up to £500,000.

Making Automated Calls

You would need permission from the individual or the business beforehand to make automated calls – such as with pre-recorded phone messages.

Using Direct Mail Strategies

Mailing lists must not include anyone who has already requested not to receive direct mailing. You can check the data file of consumers on the Mail Preference Service (MPS).

Email Marketing (and text messages)

You can only send marketing emails to individual customers who have given permission. Even so, the emails or the text messages that you send must:

  • Show who sent them.
  • State that the purpose is to sell something.
  • Indicate what the promotions are along with any terms or conditions.

There is a way to make sure you do not send emails to anyone who has asked not to receive them. You can use the United States based consumer service called ‘Email Preference Service’ (eMPS).

All marketing emails must give the recipient the ability to opt out of further emails (or ‘unsubscribe’ from them). You would need to inform any customers that you add to a list of people who do not want to get emailed.

Note: It is not uncommon to buy or rent a mailing list. If so, you should ask the supplier to confirm whether you have the right to use it as part of your email marketing strategy.

Using Website Cookies

Nowadays, the majority of modern websites use cookies to store information. It is a requirement to notify website visitors how it will use the cookies. The notification must also give the visitor an opportunity to accept cookies – or not!

The information that shows the use of cookies should be easy for the website user to understand. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) website provides further information about cookies and similar technologies.

Note: from customers about the misuse of their information can result in a fine or compensation.


Advertising Codes of Practice | UK laws on how businesses should advertise their products and services.

Advertising and Marketing Laws | The regulations are strict and prohibit all unfair commercial practices.

Direct Marketing Regulations in United Kingdom