Email and the Law

Do Not Exploit The Trust Of Your Subscribers

There’s a fine line between expanding your current email marketing campaigns to sell items that will be useful for your customers during the coronavirus response and taking advantage of it for your own ends. It doesn’t help that the line is blurred. It is tempting to over-promote products or services such as vitamin supplements or home delivery services, especially if you believe that you can provide just what the public wants.

It is a risky step to take as both the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the French Advertising Regulator (ARPP) have taken strong stands on the subject, the latter being quite clear on the matter. In its Code on Advertising and Commercial Communications it states: “Commercial communication, unless there is a justifiable reason, must prohibit any exploitation of feelings of fear, bad luck or suffering”. As I said, very clear.

The ASA follows that example, announcing that it will “act quickly and robustly” during the current pandemic if it feels any misleading marketing or misinformation is reported to them. It has already banned certain adverts for facemasks. The advice from Public Health England is that there is little evidence to support their widespread benefit outside of clinical settings so advertising claims that they are effective will be addressed.Do Not Exploit The Trust Of Your Subscribers

The ASA states that “advertisers should be particularly vigilant in ensuring that their advertising remains responsible and under no circumstances could be seen as taking advantage of the current situation through misleading advertising”. What can we do?

The ASA is trying to raise awareness of scams. You might feel that the subscribers to your email marketing lists would appreciate information of such attacks they might receive from other companies. Indeed, I’ve received a number over recent weeks. The companies who have sent this information no doubt wish to encourage trust, vitally important in email marketing, and also make their customers aware of the risks.

You might feel that some of the advice from the ASA is rather basic. For instance, it states that the senders’ email address should be checked to see if it conforms, for instance, with the actual email address and that spelling and grammatical mistakes should be considered a warning sign. However, don’t dismiss such advice out of hand. A significant proportion of the public is nowhere near as aware as it should be, and certainly not to the level anyone engaged in email marketing.

It also suggests files from unfamiliar sources should not be downloaded and that attachments should not be opened unless you are sure of the source. All fairly basic stuff, of course, but unimpeachable. The same goes for a warning not to give away personal details.

Another bit of advice is one that we should welcome. It says people should only trust established outlets, and, as these people have subscribed to our email marketing lists, we should comfortably come within that definition. If you tell this to your customers you cannot, one would assume, be faulted.

We live in unprecedented times and the unscrupulous take advantage of our fears and concerns. Remaining dependable and trustworthy is an essential.



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