More than a third of all UK businesses are unaware of new anti-spam legislation which came into force today (11 December), according to a survey of Institute of Directors members.
The UK Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, which implement an EU directive of the same name, require companies to gain consent from individuals before they can send them electronic communications for marketing purposes.
The law aims to address the growing problem of spam, which now accounts for more than half of all e-mail traffic, and costs global businesses an estimated £6.5bn a year in lost productivity.
Although the legislation went through three months of consultation, the snapshot poll of 118 IoD members found that 35% were unaware of the new legislation.
Of those respondents whose companies engage in e-mail marketing, a worrying 29% said they did not know about, or understand, what the new legislation means for them.
Jonathan Cummings, director of e-business at the IoD, said the government should have done more to address this lack of awareness.
"The DTI has now spent many months finalising the regulations, but with over one third of businesses unaware of the changes, perhaps more time should have been spent publicising the new legislation,” he said.
“With many definitions still fairly loose, the implementation of this directive could be confusing, especially for small businesses who don't have an in-house expert.”
Security experts have criticised the regulations suggesting they will be ineffective, as they do not cover business-to-business communication and e-mails sent from outside Europe, in particular the US.
Dave Marchese, partner at law firm Davenport Lyons, said, "Although the new law is very significant it will have more of an effect for responsible e-mail marketing companies than it will for those who are irresponsible. It may even help irresponsible spammers by making people confirm live e-mail addresses."Cummings agreed with these points, but added, “It will encourage a best-practice and more effective approach for business, clearly differentiating legitimate e-mail marketing from spam.”