How to stop unsolicited email and text messages


Direct marketing emails or text messages that you have not requested from a company of which you are not a customer can become a nuisance. This is sometimes called spam.

Under the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Privacy and Electronic Communications) Regulations 2011, the sending of unsolicited commercial emails can be an offence and an offender can be tried summarily or on indictment.


A company can send you direct marketing emails or text messages if:

  • You have given them explicit consent to do so within the last 12 months


  • They have got your personal contact details through selling you a product or service within the last 12 months and
  • They have told you their identity, the purpose for collecting your contact details, anyone who your data may be shared with and any other information needed to make the processing of your data fair and
  • They are only marketing products and services to you that are similar to the one you have purchased or subscribed to and
  • You were given the opportunity to opt out of marketing by email at the time your details were collected and at the time of each communication following that (If you don’t unsubscribe using the cost-free option given to you by the company, they can assume that you wish to opt in to getting direct marketing for a 12-month period from the date of the most recent marketing email).

A company cannot send you direct marketing emails or text messages in the following circumstances:

  • If you have not given your consent to getting such emails or text messages within the last 12 months in one of the ways described above
  • If you cannot tell who the sender is because their identity has been disguised or hidden
  • If you are not provided with a valid address to which you can send an opt-out request
  • If you have joined a club to which you pay a subscription for text, multimedia or email message services, unless the direct marketing is directly related to a similar product or service to the subscription club of which you are a member

Tips for protecting yourself from direct marketing by email

When you are entering competitions, promotions or surveys and are asked to give contact details, read the conditions of entry carefully and make sure you understand how your contact details may be used. If the conditions state that your details may be used for marketing, or passed onto third parties to use for marketing, it is up to you to judge whether entering the competition is worth it.

If you do decide to supply your contact details, you can always change your mind at a later date and tell the organisation that you do not want to receive marketing. However, at that point, the organisation may have already passed your details to third parties.

Be careful when writing your personal contact details on a public space such as a website forum, social media page or your own website. Marketers may be able to see this information without you knowing and use your details without your consent.

It is not advised to respond to an email address to opt-out of a list unless the address is from a recognised organisation. Responding to a web site that supposedly lets you remove yourself from the list is also not advised. This is because once you access the web site or opt out of the email your details are logged. You could also you be exposed to illegal content.

If you get a lot of unsolicited commercial or offensive emails you can filter these using your email spam settings.

How to stop direct marketing

Unsolicited direct marketing mail can be stopped by sending back an opt-out supplied with such contacts to the sender. A means of doing this should have been provided with the email or text message. Your preference must be respected.

How to make a complaint about direct marketing

You can make a complaint about unsolicited direct marketing to the Data Protection Commission.

Your complaint must be in writing (email is acceptable). You should include your name and postal address.

Reputable companies should not market their products through unsolicited commercial mails. It is, therefore, important not to engage with any company that sends unsolicited commercial emails by replying to them or contacting them through other means.

Illegal content

The Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998 outlaws child pornography. Any person found to produce, forward, publish, show or possess child pornography is committing a crime. was established by the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland to deal with instances of child pornography or other illegal material that Irish internet users come across either on the internet or in an email. This website is connected to similar hotlines in other countries and so can work across borders.

How to apply

You can make a complaint about unsolicited direct marketing to the Data Protection Commission.

The Data Protection Commission provides further information and a complaint form (pdf).

Where to apply

Data Protection Commission

21 Fitzwilliam Square South,
Dublin 2,
D02 RD28

Opening Hours: 09:15 – 17:30 Mon – Thurs, 09:15-17:15 Friday
Tel: +353 57 868 4800 / +353 0761 104800
Page edited: 14 August 2018