Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Worst Kind of Spam

This morning I wrote another letter to the Data Protection Commissioner in Jersey to complain about unsolicited email from Play.com, a Jersey-based online retailer.

As you might expect, I get a lot of spam. My various email addresses have been out there in the public domain for so long that I see it as an occupational hazard. I get asked 'don't you get fed up with having to delete all those hundreds of 'cheap meds' emails every morning?' The answer is no, not really. But when I get non-compliant email from legitimate EU companies who should know better it's a different story.

OK, the email directive of 2003 is a bit grey in places. When is an email address a business address, and when is it private? The distinction, in the UK at least, is down to the legal status of the business - limited companies are businesses, whereas sole traders or partnerships are regarded as private individuals.

The reading of the EU directive in Jersey may be different. But the issue I have with Play.com, is that they make it impossible to opt out of their emailings. I've had several email exchanges with the company over the last two years but they are unable or unwilling to action my request. That makes their sales emails, for me, more pernicious than any amount of bot-generated spam selling dodgy pharmaceuticals.

The moral of the tale? If someone complains that your email is spam, it doesn't matter whether you agree. Don't defend yourself and don't force the recipient to jump through hoops in order to get off the list. DO apologise, DO suppress their address and do it right away. Remember the old adage about how people are quick to tell others if they've bad experience. It's the kind of negative word of mouth no-one wants, especially on the internet.

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