The consumer’s voice 

The next pair of shoes, so to speak, were the consumers’. Alexandra Koch-Skiba, Head of the eco Complaints Office, and Peter Meyer, Head of eco Cyber Security Services, spoke about “Email marketing – listening to the voice of the consumer”. Rather than presenting dry statistics, Koch-Skiba translated the facts and figures of her daily work into trends and risks that senders face. Germany was taken as a benchmark for the legal requirements senders need to keep in mind when doing email marketing. Germany’s laws related to email marketing are the strictest in the world. If you fulfil German requirements, then you most likely fulfil the legal requirements in other countries. 

Angry consumers and another surge in complaints about unwanted email

The eco Complaints Office found that, while the volume of emails has only slightly increased from 506 billion in 2014 to 537 billion emails sent in 2015, the number of complaints related to emails has risen sharply (192,254 complaints in 2015, a 48% increase compared to 2014, which in turn represented a 47% increase on the number of complaints in 2013). Many such complaints relate to emails which were actually legally compliant, but were classified as spam by the recipients. Consumers are not happy about receiving emails they do not want. The issues most frequently reported is lack of consent given, non-recognition of and hence negative reaction to rebranded companies or newsletters and too many emails. 

A key finding in 2015 was that many consumers are not aware that an existing relationship with a company or brand legally allows commercial emails to be sent to them. The tone of many complaints has become much more negative and aggressive, showing the huge frustration many consumers obviously feel about unwanted emails. As Koch-Skiba concluded, if a consumer is angry enough to make a formal written complaint about your email to the Complaints Office, then they are angry enough to share that frustration with others, e.g. on social media. This can impact hugely on senders’ reputations. 

A global threat: +50% growth in malware p.a. 

Peter Meyer turned the focus to the work of the Anti-Botnet Advisory Centre, which has a current focus on combatting ransomware. The Centre, part of eco’s Cyber Security Services, doesn’t just warn consumers, but develops solutions to keep users safe online, for example, by working with industry partners to provide consumers with free tools to clean up their computers. The most recent malware attacks target the weakest link of a company (with large distribution lists and limited technical knowledge). Attacks tend to be against Sales, HR, or Marketing staff. Malware is now cross-platform and there is exponential growth in currently unbreakable ransomware.

While infected computers might seem like a problem for end users, each infected computer represents a risk not just for the consumer, but for an ISP’s infrastructure and everyone else online. Though many users still lack awareness of the dangers of malware, they are not to be ignored. They can react badly and lose trust in their ESP and ISP.