Unwanted electronic commercial advertising

The proliferation of the Internet and the rapid development and growth of information and communication technologies have accelerated the transformation of commercial techniques and the channels through which advertising reaches us. The low cost of sending via the Internet (by e-mail) or by mobile telephony (SMS and MMS), its possible anonymity, the speed with which it is received by the recipients and the possibilities in the volume of transmissions, have allowed this practice to be carried out in an abusive and indiscriminate manner. Postal mail, letterboxes, calls to landlines or door-to-door sales have been replaced by e-mails, text messages and particularly annoying calls to cell phones.

Under what premises is it legal to receive commercial advertising electronically?

First of all, the Law allows the sending of commercial communications through the use of the Internet or other electronic media, whenever the advertiser, provider or company, can be identified as such.

The sending of advertising or commercial messages by e-mail is allowed to those users who have previously requested or expressly authorized it. However, it is allowed to send commercial communications to those users with whom there is a prior contractual relationship, in which case the provider may send advertising on products or services similar to those contracted by the customer. Thus, any sending for advertising purposes is subject to the provision of consent, unless there is a prior contractual relationship.

In any case, in order to strengthen the user’s position in this matter, the provider must offer the recipient the possibility of objecting to the processing of his data for promotional purposes, both at the time of data collection and in each of the commercial communications sent to him. The Law also obliges service providers to provide simple and free-of-charge procedures for recipients to revoke the consent they have given, as well as to make information on these procedures accessible by telematic means.

These rules also apply to the sending of advertising messages by other equivalent means of individual electronic communication, such as cell phone messaging services.

How to avoid receiving unwanted electronic advertisements?

Different regulations, including those related to data protection, protect the user from certain online commercial practices, but there are certain habits or preventive actions that we can carry out to try to avoid annoying unwanted advertising or spam.

Avoiding the reception of unwanted advertising is one of the most frequently raised issues taken to the Spanish Data Protection Agency, and one of the most relevant rights to do so is the exercise of the right of opposition that the data protection regulations contemplate. 

In order to avoid receiving advertising, the Spanish Data Protection Agency recommends first of all to register in the advertising exclusion channels, channels through which those affected limit the reception of commercial communications to those coming from certain companies. In this regard, the most important channel at present is the so-called Robinson List, which is managed independently by the Spanish Association of Digital Economy. In this service, which is free for citizens, you can select the medium or media (telephone, postal mail, e-mail and SMS/MMS) through which you do not want to receive advertising. Therefore, the Robinson List allows not having to oppose the reception of unwanted advertising on a case-by-case basis but to register in a system and select, with a single act, all the channels through which you do not want to receive advertising.  For this purpose, the Organic Law on Data Protection and Guarantee of Digital Rights indicates that those who intend to carry out direct marketing communications must first consult the advertising exclusion systems that may affect their actions, excluding from the processing the data of those affected who have expressed their opposition or refusal to it. It is important to remember that in the case of the Robinson List, it is effective from the third month after you sign up.

In addition to the Robinson List indicated, it is convenient to take into account a series of good practices that will help us to mitigate the possibilities of being object and therefore, of receiving the unwanted electronic advertising to which we have made reference. They are as follows:

  • Be careful when providing the e-mail address. Only provide your e-mail address to people and organizations that you trust and those with whom you want to communicate.
  • Use two or more e-mail addresses. It is advisable to create an e-mail address, which will be the one to provide in cases where you do not trust or know the recipient well enough
  • Choose an unidentifiable e-mail address. To create an e-mail address and reduce the sending of unwanted advertising, it would be advisable not to enter fields that are potentially intuitive to the sender
  • Do not publish the e-mail address. The e-mail address should not be advertised in search engines, contact directories, forums or web pages.
  • Carefully read the Privacy Policy and Terms of Cancellation. If you are subscribing to an online service or purchasing a product, review the privacy policy before providing your e-mail address or other personal information. Do not hesitate to exercise your rights of access and cancellation about your data with these companies.