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Data collection laws

How do I promote your business without falling foul of the law?

Q:  After nearly 20 years of working in the driving business I am taking on my first ever pub in February next year.  Me and my wife want to ‘start as we mean to go on’ and try to build up a strong following by using low cost promotional tools like email, texts and social media. I already know about the laws on irresponsible drinks promotions so my marketing won’t promote excessive drinking, but I’m not sure about the laws on data collection.

A:  You are absolutely right to check as there are many laws covering this. 

The first thing that you should be aware of is that you should only send promotional messages to people who have ‘opted-in’ to receive them.   And at the point where people actually ‘opt in’ you should make it clear that you are collecting their data for promotional purposes and explain the sort of promotion that they might expect. For instance, a Mega Monday where your food has 50% off. 

After your customers have opted in, they have the right to opt out at any time. So all your communications must include a clear and easy opt out option. For instance by sending a ‘STOP’ text to a short number, or using a clear ‘unsubscribe’ link in your email messages. 

Something else you are not permitted to do without permission is share your customers’ data with another organisation, regardless of who that organisation is. 

I would also recommend that you keep records of the consent which ideally should be in writing and can demonstrate compliance in the event that one of your customers complains. 

As I said at the start of my answer, there are many laws covering data protection and it can be a complex area. There is a useful Direct Marketing checklist available here: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/marketing/ and this website includes some good information: https://www.gov.uk/marketing-advertising-law/direct-marketing. Remember you may also have to register as a Data Controller with the Information Commissioner’s Office for a small fee.

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