What are spam emails?
Spam emails are generally, but not always, marketing emails sent to you without consent. It is email that you don’t want and didn’t ask for, and its content can cause embarrassment and distress. However, it’s worth remembering that the sender generally doesn’t target recipients personally. The same spam email can be sent to millions of people at the same time and the addresses can often be guessed.
Not all marketing emails sent without consent are spam emails. Marketing emails can be sent without prior consent by organisations who obtained your email address when you bought something from them and are advertising similar products or services. However, these marketing emails must abide by strict rules regarding their content and provide you with the opportunity to opt out.
What does the law say?
The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 cover the sending of email marketing. This legislation says that organisations must only send marketing emails to individuals if you have agreed to receive them, except where there is a clearly defined customer relationship.
The ICO can only investigate concerns about marketing emails from identifiable UK senders. As a lot of spam emails come from outside the UK, the Information Commissioner has an agreement with a number of overseas bodies to cooperate and exchange information to try and stop spam emails that are sent from those places.
What can I do if I’m getting unwanted marketing emails?
If you receive marketing by email that you don’t want from an identifiable and legitimate UK based organisation that you know and trust, you should first use the ‘unsubscribe’ link provided on the email. The organisation should then stop sending you marketing emails. Legitimate, well-known companies will offer opt-outs, and in many cases things can be resolved quickly without us getting involved.
However, if you continue to receive marketing emails from the organisation despite using the ‘unsubscribe’ link you may wish to report this to the ICO: