This is in part a UX and a legal (UK) question.

Is there a best practice in terms of opt in statements for data protection for registration. I have had our CRM team suggest that we should include an automatic opt in as part of the T's & C's so a user has to receive communications (email / phone / post / text) from us and has no option but to proceed with this.

I am opposed to this on a user level and also on an ethical level as we are a good cause.

Any feedback on this greatly appreciated.

  • Not 100% sure what you mean here; you mean there's a "permission to contact" checkbox and you're talking about making it opt in vs opt out?
    – Ben Brocka
    Oct 18, 2012 at 19:58

2 Answers 2


This is a really interesting question.

My understanding of the legal situation is a user doesn't have to specifically opt-in to your marketing, providing you give them a way to opt-out in every email you send them. This seems to be referred to as 'soft opt-in', or 'implied consent' - they give you their details as part of getting a quote (or signing up to something else on your site, or similar) and that's enough to think they might want to be on your mailing list.

However... Just because you can doesn't mean you should. I'm definitely with you on the ethical level.

The other problem with not asking your users to specifically sign up to a mailing list is the spam button in their email client. Apparently, 30% of recipients click the spam button on marketing emails even if they have signed up. This becomes a whole lot more likely if they didn't actually ask to get the emails. Not sure how many times that button would need to be clicked before the ISP put you on the spam list, but I'm willing to bet it's not too many.

There's also a good UK-based write up here that articulates the issues a whole lot better than me.

  • Completely agree. This isn't really a legal issue, but from a branding perspective it's a bad idea anyhow. The last thing you want your brand to be associated with is irritation. Sending people spam annoys them, and this is likely to hurt your reputation. And if people think it's spam, they're not going to read it anyway, so you gain nothing. Oct 20, 2012 at 22:09
  • Even my mom clicks the spam button on marketing emails instead of unsubscribing. I thought she was the only person who did this. Sep 16, 2013 at 15:39

This is the official line ( 'The Information Commissioner’s Office is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals'


Q: I am receiving unsolicited marketing emails. What can I do about these?

The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations lay down rules for organisations sending unsolicited marketing by electronic means. The rules are different depending whether the recipient is an 'individual subscriber' (eg Jonsmith@yahoo) or a 'corporate subscriber' (eg Jonsmith@ico).

The regulations say that organisations must have prior consent to send unsolicited marketing material by electronic mail to individual subscribers, unless they have obtained the details during the course of a sale, or negotiations towards one, and they give you the opportunity to object in every message. If you are an individual subscriber receiving unsolicited marketing by electronic mail, and the organisation hasn't stopped even though you've tried to opt out, you can complain to the ICO.

If you are a corporate subscriber the prior consent rule does not apply. Marketing communications should still identify the sender and provide a valid address. Depending on the information the company holds about you, a corporate subscriber may also have rights under the Data Protection Act.

Read our topic guide about spam email

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