Direct Marketers have now a better understanding about the rules governing their promotional strategies performed on 'new media' and targeted to users of social networks or of messaging services.

On July 4th, the Italian Privacy Commissioner ("Autorità Garante per la protezione dei dati personali") has released its updated guidelines containing the criteria and requirements the direct marketing industry will have to consider from now on.

Businesses active in this sector will have to follow some 'golden rules' when drafting and performing their marketing strategies.

  1. Opt-in requirement: commercial offers and promotional material of any kind may be delivered via automated systems (such as: pre-recorded phone messages, e-mail, fax, sms, mms) exclusively on targeted subject's informed, specific and freely expressed consent (where such consent on request has to be substantiated by written documents),
  2. Control obligations: companies adopting such direct marketing strategies and relying on third parties for organizing and handling promotional campaigns, are called to exercise proper control in order to avoid that incorrect conduct is performed by such third parties in charge of contacting potential clients.
  3. Social Networks and Messaging Services: specific in-advance consent is also required for automated delivery or 'viral' and 'targeted' marketing directed to users of social networks as well as of messaging services. The fact that users' data may be available and accessible on such platforms (e. g. on a Facebook wall, or chat rooms) does not exempt from seeking such consent.
  4. Word of Mouth: Consent is not required for informing friends via e-mail or sms about commercial offers.
  5. Promotional e-mails to existing clients: such commercial communication (so-called 'soft spam') is allowed without further requirements, provided it relates to products or services identical to those object of a previous commercial relationship.
  6. Promotional initiatives towards brand 'fans': commercial offers to 'followers' on social networks may be freely delivered as long as from their registration to a company page clearly emerges their interest in – and consent to – receiving promotional messages about a brand and its products or services.
  7. No need to seek for 'multiple' consent: once correctly achieved, consent covers both, all forms of marketing (e. g. delivery of promotional material as well as performance of market research or tests) as well as all kind of possible uses (e. g. calls performed by phone operators, distribution of hard copies of promotional material), even transfer of personal data to third parties, provided that in-advance notice offered to data subjects on purposes of collection specifically indicates and contains the contact information of such third parties.
  8. Non-compliance: the Privacy Commissioner reminders individuals affected by undue spam that they may access the Authority at any time and solicit intervention ask for sanctions to be applied on the spammer (in certain cases the maximum amount of such sanctions may reach Euro 500.000).
  9. Legal entities: even though not having a standing in the proceedings before the Privacy Commissioner, companies can flag spamming practices to the Authority's attention (while in serious cases action before a Civil or Criminal Court is always available).

(As per August 1st, 2013)

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.