Junk mail, spam and unwanted texts and calls

What is an unsolicited communication?

Junk mail is unsolicited you receive through the post that advertises or promotes something. Spam is email marketing that you have not requested or do not want. Cold calling is when a company you have not had any dealings with, calls you for sales or marketing purposes.

An unsolicited communication means contact that you did not seek or request. The laws on direct marketing are set out in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Regulation 13 of the ePrivacy Regulations 2011.

In general, a company is allowed to contact you if:

  • You have given your consent (agreed to it)
  • You have not changed your direct marketing preference in the National Directory Database (NDD)

Even if the company has your agreement to be contacted, you can change your mind and withdraw your consent under the GDPR.

There are steps you can take to prevent junk mail, spam and unwanted phone calls and texts.

Rules for junk mail

It is legal for a company to send you direct mail such as advertisements and special offers, however you have the right to have your details removed from a direct marketing database.

The rules on direct marketing do not apply to:

  • Mail you get from overseas
  • Promotional material with no address
  • Material addressed to ‘the householder’, ‘the occupier’ or ‘the occupant’

Getting removed from junk mail distribution lists

You have the right to have your details removed from a direct marketing database under data protection rules. Write to the organisation keeping the database and ask it to remove your details.

The organisation must:

  • Action your request
  • Write back to you within 40 days
  • Confirm that your details have been removed

Rules for direct marketing by email or text

A company can send you direct marketing emails or text messages if you have given your explicit consent within the last 12 months. Explicit consent means you have been given a clear option to say yes or no to future contact.

They can also send you direct marketing emails or text messages if the following conditions are met:

  • They got your personal contact details by selling you a product or service within the last 12 months
  • They told you their identity, the purpose for collecting your contact details, who your data may be shared with and any other information needed for fair processing of your data
  • They are only marketing products and services to you that are similar to the one you bought or subscribed to
  • You were given the opportunity to opt out of marketing by email at the time your details were collected and each time you are contacted following that (for example, by providing an ‘unsubscribe’ option)

A company can't send you direct marketing emails or text messages if:

  • You have not given your consent within the last 12 months in one of the ways described above
  • You can't tell who the sender is because their identity has been disguised or hidden
  • You are not given a valid address to send an opt-out request

These rules are set out in the ePrivacy Regulations.

How to stop unsolicited email or text

You can stop an unsolicited email or text by sending an unsubscribe or opt-out request to the company who sent you the email or text.

The company must give you a valid address to send your opt-out request. For example, you should have the option to click ‘unsubscribe’ at the bottom of the email or reply ‘STOP’ to a text.

If you tell the sender that you do not want to receive any more emails or texts, they must stop. It is an offence for companies to send emails or texts to you without your clear consent.

Rules on cold calling

Phone numbers are listed free of charge in the national telephone directory and in directory enquiries.

The NDD is a list of telephone numbers publicly available in phone books or through directory enquiries in Ireland. It includes both landline and mobile phone numbers. The NDD’s function is to:

  • Hold your listing preferences (whether or not you want to be listed) for telephone directories or directory enquiry services
  • Hold your preference whether or not you want to be contacted by direct marketing companies

The ePrivacy Regulations bans companies from cold calling if you have changed your listing in the NDD to stop such calls to your landline.

What about mobile phones?

Companies cannot make cold calls to mobile numbers unless:

  • You give the company consent to call you on your mobile
  • You have consented to receiving direct marketing calls and this consent has been recorded in the NDD

Mobile phone numbers are automatically ‘opted out’ on the NDD to receive direct marketing calls. These rules are set our in the ePrivacy Regulations.

How to stop unwanted cold calls

Contact your service provider and tell them that you do not want to get direct marketing calls. This will be recorded on the NDD ‘do not call register’, within 5 working days of you making the request. Companies in Ireland are then banned from calling you for direct marketing purposes.

You can make a complaint if:

  • You get a call more than 28 days after your details are recorded in the ‘do not call register’
  • You have told the company not to contact you again

If your number is ex-directory, your number should be automatically recorded as not wanting to receive direct marketing calls. This applies in all cases, unless you have changed your preference to allow them to contact you. Ex-directory means your number is not listed in phone books or with directory enquiries.

The Commission for Communications Regulations has more information about unsolicited contacts and the National Directory Database.

What happens if I am still contacted?

If you continue to receive marketing after you have asked them to stop, you should make a formal complaint to the company in writing (for example, by email).

Complain to the Data Protection Commission

If you have complained to the company and you are not satisfied with the response, you can contact the Data Protection Commission.

You can complain to the Data Protection Commission:

  • Through its online form
  • By calling the helpdesk on 01 765 0100 or 1800 437 737
  • By post

You can find out more about making a complaint to the Data Protection Commission.

More information

The Data Protection Commission has more information on rules for electronic and direct marketing and your data protection rights.

Data Protection Commission

21 Fitzwilliam Square South,
Dublin 2,
D02 RD28

Opening Hours: 09:30 – 17:30, Monday–Friday (closed 13:00-14:00)
Tel: 01 765 0100 or 1800 437 737
Page edited: 24 April 2023