Quick guide to PECR – and the reasons it’s critical for any direct marketing company

Oct 23rd '23

What is the purpose of PECR?

Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (PECR) lays out the permissible and prohibited uses of direct marketing.


PECR must be followed if you engage in any kind of direct marketing to consumers, including telemarketing, email, SMS, and direct communications via social media.


The standards specify what needs to be taken into account when telemarketing, such as following TPS guidelines or customers’ preferences for your communications. They also specify when consent is required and what you can and cannot do with electronic marketing, including automated calls and emails.


Direct marketing: what is it?

Direct marketing refers to any form of communication, whether through advertising or other materials, that is targeted at specific people. Any type of marketing that is directed at specific individuals is covered. It can be sent by phone, email, text message, direct message on social media, and more.


Many businesses participate in direct marketing, often without even realising it. This involves reaching out to individuals who have already expressed interest in a good or service.


It is important to think about whether the outbound marketing you are conducting is “direct” if at all. Do you know the names of the individuals you are attempting to close deals with for goods or services? Are you contacting them with their details? If so, direct marketing is involved.


Why is that relevant?

The data protection police are basically the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). People frequently worry about infractions of data protection rules and facing consequences from the ICO; however, since the ICO also keeps an eye on PECR violations, it is direct marketing law violations that should raise the most concern.


The instances that involve alleged breaches of these direct marketing regulations typically attract the interest of the ICO. Violators may face fines of up to £500,000, have their business operations prohibited, and suffer severe harm to their reputations in the marketplace. Not to mention the directors of the corporation might be held liable for the same staggering fines, not to mention their disqualification should the charges go unpaid.


Yes, the UK’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Act (DPA) are significant; but, businesses frequently ignore, or frequently are unaware of, The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (PECR), which are the regulations they are most likely to violate.


What is the difference between PECR and GDPR?
The key difference is that GDPR relates to the processing of personal data, while the PECR relate specifically to electronic marketing and has specific rules on: Marketing calls, emails, texts and faxesCookies.


How can I handle it?

If it is determined that you have violated PECR, the ICO will write to you and ask you to explain how you are abiding by the rules, including how you verify that subscribers have given their consent to receive direct marketing from you. More importantly, they will ask you for copies of “any policies, procedures, and training materials used to inform staff about compliance with PECR.”


This last point is more crucial than most because, in our experience who helps businesses navigate ICO investigations, businesses almost universally lack the training necessary to demonstrate to the ICO that their staff members are knowledgeable about direct marketing.


In light of what is possible, we work with some of the biggest call centres, home improvement, and regulatory law firms in the UK to make sure that their staff is trained to follow PECR regulations. I have extensive experience practising regulatory law.


Your business and you as a director could each be subject to a fine of up to £500,000 if it turns out that your employees have violated the PECR.


We’ve dealt with numerous complaints, but by making sure your team is properly trained, you can make sure your company remains legal and profitable while avoiding ICO scrutiny.


Download: Guide to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.


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