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Most top brands irresponsibly spamming customers with email marketing

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27th Oct 2010
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Just over half of the top 100 UK brands fail to comply with good email marketing practice guidelines by sending large volumes of messages that consumers have not explicitly consented to receive.

A mere one in three meet best practice standards, with 44% automatically opting in shoppers to receive emails rather than allowing them to sign up for them proactively, according to research undertaken by researcher Spam Ratings.

This means that a huge 56% of messages sent by the top 100 online retailers were not explicitly requested by consumers in breach of guidance issued by the Direct Marketing Association and the Information Commissioner’s Office. These guidelines state that companies must obtain proactive consent before sending emails and should not provide pre-ticked opt-in boxes for consent purposes.

Andy Yates, co-founder of Spam Ratings, said: "Trusted brands are making a big mistake by not acting responsibly, openly and fairly with customers. Businesses spend millions building brands and then seem intent on destroying them by sending millions of useless, unwanted emails."

One of the worst offenders, he claimed, was Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, which owns high street brands ranging from TopShop and Dorothy Perkins to Evans and Burton and sent out about 394 messages to each consumer over the six month research period, the equivalent of two per day.

A further 13 brands, including boots.com and britishairways.com, also contradicted best practice guidelines by opting in users to receive third party emails, which simply added to consumers’ spam burden.

A second year-long study of 10,000 UK brands indicated, meanwhile, that 75% of the 150,000 emails they sent from their websites were either unwanted, a nuisance or dangerous.

One in 10 were responsible for sending either dangerous or malicious spam, with each website involved generating an average of five attacks per day. A huge 30% of the emails investigated came from third parties, indicating that personal data is being sold on to a worrying extent.

Yates said: "Spam is a nasty and dangerous disease that has turned into an epidemic in the UK. Websites are the main cause and the main way the disease has spread. Too many websites sell data to third parties and are the source of the huge growth in unwanted and dangerous emails."

The research showed that the volume of spam from websites had increased by 110% from 1 October 2009 to 30 September 2010.

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