United Kingdom Communications Legal Framework (UK)

UK Legal framework basics

The Information Commissioner's Office is the regulatory body in charge of setting up guidelines in the UK for marketing communications promoting data privacy for the individuals.

The ICO edits a comprehensive checklist to help businesses comply with its regulations.

Direct marketing

Direct marketing covers the promotion of aims and ideals as well as the sale of products and services.

Direct marketing, as defined by the ICO include non-commercial propositions. The guidelines edited by the ICO also apply to non-profit organizations such as charities or political parties.

Obtaining consent

Consent is required for direct marketing campaigns. Organizations need to be able to demonstrate that consent was given freely and knowingly. They need to keep records of consent. Here is an overview of the legal requirements regarding consent:

  • Use opt-in boxes for obtaining consent
  • Specify the method of communication when obtaining consent
  • If need, ask for consent to pass on collected details to third parties
  • Record how and when consent was given and exactly what it covers

Non-compliance risks

The ICO has enforcement powers and can issue fines going up to £500,000:

The ICO will consider using its enforcement powers, including the power to issue a fine of up to £500,000, where an organization persistently ignores individuals’ objections to marketing or otherwise fails to comply with the law.

As a carrier, we take the quality of the traffic going through our services very seriously. We reserve the right to limit or prevent your traffic if you don't comply with the laws of the countries concerned.

Call-specific Regulations

What is the TPS?

The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is the official opt-out register of the UK (like Bloctel in France). UK citizens can register to opt out unsolicited sales or marketing calls.

Another service, the Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS) is available for companies who wish to register their phone numbers to the opt-out list.

Each business operating promotion and marketing campaigns in the UK must ensure its compliance with TPS: initiating an unsolicited phone call to a number registered on the TPS is illegal.

Complying with the TPS

Small-to-medium companies (SME) running low volume marketing campaigns can subcontract the data cleaning to a third party. A list of list cleaners is available on TPS's website.

The TPS offers different kinds of license made to match diverse needs: ad-hoc license (1-month) for businesses with intermittent communications need and annual license for businesses running campaigns on an ongoing basis. Moreover, licenses can be partial (1%, 5%, 25%, or 50% file) or full depending on your campaigns scales.

Here is an overview of the prices:

Annual Licence   VAT Total
Full Licence £2200 £440 £2640
Partial Licence 50% * £1920 £384 £2304
Partial Licence 25% * £880 £176 £1056
Partial Licence 5% * £340 £68 £408
Partial Licence 1% * £230 £46 £276


Ad-hoc Licence   VAT Total
Full Licence £300 £60 £360
Partial Licence 50% * £230 £46 £276
Partial Licence 25% * £220 £44 £264
Partial Licence 5% * £50 £10 £60
Partial Licence 1% * £30 £6 £36


Live and Automated calls guidelines

There are two main requirements for all phone calls, once compliance with the TPS is ensured:

  1. Do-not-call list: the called individuals must be given the option to opt-out of any future communications and the calling company must screen its calls against this list.
  2. Identification: companies must display their number (or an alternative contact number) while calling individuals

Besides, automated phone calls (pre-recorded) cannot be made without prior consent.

SMS-specific Regulations

Consent requirement exception

There is an exception to the consent requirement applying to existing customers know as the "soft opt-in". An organization can send marketing text to an individual without explicit consent if the situation meets the three following criteria:

  1. The contact details were obtained in the course of a sale (or negotiations for a sale) of a product or service to that person
  2. The sent messages are marketing their own similar product or services
  3. The targeted individual was given the opportunity to refuse or opt-out of the marketing, both when first collecting the details and in every message after that.

Legal requirements for SMS

Once consent is obtained (see above), companies must comply with opt-out requirements. This means:

  • Include a method of opt-out from receiving marketing communications in any message they send - usually, it's done by specifying that the customer can reply with "STOP" to prevent further communication.
  • If the customer opts out, a confirmation message must be sent including the company name and the following message: “You have opted out. You will not receive additional messages”. Records of opt-out must be kept.
  • Opt-outs must be honored.
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