However, the Commission said it intended to be reasonable and accommodating with firms that make a genuine effort to comply.
Speaking at the second E-Business Regulatory Alliance conference this month, Elizabeth Dunn, compliance manager at the Information Commission, said anyone marketing by e-mail must not conceal their identity, and provide a valid address for opt-outs. In addition, unsolicited marketing e-mails cannot be sent without prior consent.
However, she said that e-marketeers do not have to get prior consent if they can state in the message that it is solicited, with contact details being collected "in the course of a sale or negotiations for a sale" and used for promoting similar products.
"The e-mail marketing codes are not as frightening as they have been portrayed," said Will Roebuck, founder of the E-business Regulatory Alliance and organiser of the conference.
Other conference issues included risks from employee actions using e-mail and data retention.
"The industry needs to be clear on what information it needs to keep and for how long, which can vary according to sector," said Roebuck.
"In the pension sector, data has to be kept for seven years, but in the nuclear sector, employers' records have to be kept until the employee's death and the death of their longest surviving child."
The ERA seeks to clarify the verification of people sending e-mail. Although businesses can use digital signatures to authenticate e-mails, that does not guarantee the e-mail was sent from that person. "Identity theft is a legal challenge," said Roebuck.
Other topics raised included vicarious liability (such as Norwich Union having to pay Western Provident £450,000 after e-mail rumours); employee discrimination revealed through e-mails; and criminal acts on the corporate e-mail system.
About the ERA
The E-Business Regulatory Alliance was set up this summer to track the ongoing progress of more than 100 pieces of UK and European legislation impacting on e-business.
This month, Sir Merlin Hay, the 25th Earl of Erroll, was appointed chairman of the group. Members include the Law Society, law firms and industry organisations.