What marketing rules and regulations do I need to follow for my business?

According to Blue Corona, the main reasons for small business marketing is to drive sales and build brand awareness. We all know how essential it is to get our business noticed for the right reasons, and marketing is certainly one of the ways of achieving that aim.

Whilst marketing itself can take many forms – direct advertising, content marketing, social media, referral marketing, etc – there are regulations you need to follow to ensure you don’t fall foul of the law.

According to UK law, all marketing must be:

  • An accurate description of the product/service
  • Honest and truthful
  • Legal
  • Decent
  • Socially responsible, i.e. not encouraging illegal, unsafe, or anti-social behaviour

This is broken down further into certain regulations.

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations means you can’t mislead or harass consumers – this could be through false or deceptive messages, leaving out important information, or using aggressive sales tactics.

Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations covers marketing to other businesses. Along with being accurate and honest, you cannot make misleading comparisons with competitors such as comparing your product with a competitor’s that isn’t the same, or using a competitor’s logo/trademark, or one that is similar.

Breaking either of these regulations could mean you’re reported to the local Trading Standards office, and could face a fine, be prosecuted and even face imprisonment.

When it comes to advertising there are two codes of practice you need to adhere to depending on where that advertising is positioned – you can read more about those codes here.

Direct marketing is something most small business owners will carry out at some point – this would include your email marketing, such as newsletters. You must check that your customers want to be contacted by you via email, fax, post or phone. Any customer details must only be obtained with their express permission and knowledge of what those details will be used for, according to the Data Protection Act.

It is illegal to share the details you have on a customer with another organisation without prior and explicit consent of that customer.

Your customers have the right to stop you using their information for direct marketing at any time, and so you must provide them with an ‘opt out’ that is clearly identified, and easy for them to use – such as an unsubscribe link, or texting ‘STOP’ to a short number.

Another consideration we must make as business owners is the content of our websites. The EU directive in 2011 gave individuals the right to refuse the use of cookies that reduce their online privacy.

A cookie is a little data file that stores information in people’s web browsers. Almost all websites use them. Website coding like flash and HTML5 also use local storage and do similar things to cookies, and are also included within the legislation. Your website will use cookies in some form, and so it is important you abide by what is now known as ‘the cookie law’.

If you own a website, you need to ensure that it is compliant. This means you need to complete a cookie audit to establish what cookies your website sets, and what they are used for. You then need to inform your visitors of how you use those cookies, and obtain their consent allowing them control over whether they agree to use your website, or not.

Failure to ensure your website is compliant can mean enforcement action from The Information Commissioners’ Office, and could lead to a fine.

It’s worth mentioning Brexit here. The cookie law is an EU directive that the UK followed as a member country. There has been some discussion over the effects of the UK leaving the European Union, and what that means for directives that have an impact on British businesses.

At this moment in time, consensus is that the UK will keep the directives already in place and make them part of the law. So, until you hear otherwise, keep adhering to those EU directives! 

As social media marketing is free to get started, most of us use it as an effective tool. However, each social media channel has its own rules and regulations on what you can, and cannot post. There is more specific guidance for paid advertising on social media, you can check these out here for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn but do make sure you find out what they are for the particular channels you choose to use.

It all sounds quite complicated, doesn’t it?

Essentially, if your advertising and marketing remains accurate, honest and transparent you have little to worry about. Make sure you’ve completed a cookie audit on your website, and have a cookie page and opt-in notice; and do ensure you keep on the right side of social media advertising regulations by having a read of what they are before you publish anything on those platforms.

If you’re unsure and would like some advice for your business, do get in touch with us for a friendly chat.