Advertising & marketing
Mail, e-mail, telephone: Depending on the type of contact, different rules apply for data protection-compliant advertising.
Under what conditions can
advertising be sent by e-mail? What can be done about unsolicited advertising?
Commercial advertising by e-mail constitutes a processing of personal data. The Federal Act on Data Protection Act (FADP) applies insofar as personal data (e-mail addresses) are collected and used to send advertising.
The Federal Act on Unfair Competition (UCA) contains a special regulation (Art. 3 let. o UCA) (act available in German, French and Italian): in the case of mass mailing of advertising messages via telecommunications, in particular by e-mail, the following conditions apply:
As a rule:
Advertising by e-mail is possible provided that people have explicitly given their consent (opt-in). To be valid, consent must be free and informed: the person whose data is processed (the data subject) must have been informed about the use of his/her e-mail address for marketing purposes and must have actively given his/her consent (e.g. by means of a checkbox that is not pre-ticked: I agree that my information may be used for commercial advertising). Consent must be given willingly and may be revoked at any time. Acceptance of the general conditions is not enough.
A person may be sent advertising if he/she is a customer of the company, and the advertising concerns similar products or services provided by the same company, and the person has the option of objecting to it (opt-out). This exception is only valid when a sale has been made or service provided. Simply creating an online account with a company is not enough. Each message must specify the identity of the sender and offer a simple and free way to refuse further advertising e-mails, normally by providing a link to unsubscribe.
If the e-mail advertisement you have received clearly violates the requirements of the UCA, the sender is guilty of unfair competition and is liable to civil or criminal sanctions; you can also file a complaint with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) (web page in German, French and Italian), which has various means of taking action.
In cases not covered by the UCA, data protection legislation remains applicable for the processing of personal data.
How to report a complaint (SECO, web page in German, French and Italian)
Personally addressed advertising by post or by telephone complies with data protection requirements under certain circumstances. This is generally the case, for example, if you have made your address and telephone number publicly accessible. There are various ways to avoid receiving unsolicited advertising.
Under the Data Protection Act, the use of an address and telephone number for advertising purposes is generally permitted if the person whose data is being used (the data subject): has made their address and telephone number publicly accessible andhas not prohibited the use of their address and telephone number for advertising purposes.
Addresses and telephone numbers are publicly accessible, for example,
Under the Data Protection Act, we all have the right to request information from the data controller as to whether and what personal data about us is being processed. The information also includes the available details on the origin of personal data, insofar as it was not obtained from the data subject.
You can stop the use of your address and telephone number for advertising purposes:
• by instructing Swisscom Directories AG to block your address and telephone number. Your information will be marked with an * in the telephone directory.
You can also stop the use of your address for advertising purposes:
• by blocking your address by the Swiss Dialogue Marketing Association SDV to block your address, to which a majority of Swiss direct marketing companies are affiliated. To do this, you can add your name to what is known as the ‘Robinson list’ at consumer information (SDV Konsumenteninfo – Mit dieser Website bietet Ihnen die Schweizer Dialogmarketing-Branche eine wichtige Informationsplattform und unterstützt Sie mit nützlichen Tipps, wie Marketing funktioniert und welche Rechte Ihnen als Kunde und Konsument zustehen. (sdv-konsumenteninfo.ch, website available in German and French). You can also add your name to the Robinson list by post, by sending a letter with your address to: SDV Schweizer Dialogmarketing Verband, Hochbordstrasse 1, 8600 Dübendorf.
Addresses and telephone numbers for advertising purposes can be blocked case by case,
• by returning unsolicited unopened mail to the sender with a note on the envelope "Thank you for not sending advertisements to my address." Stickers with such preprinted texts can be ordered from consumer protection organisations;
• by sending a registered letter to the sender prohibiting the use of your address for unsolicited mail (this is the better option as it provides you with evidence if there is any subsequent dispute).
You can use an advertising call filter. Contact your telecommunications provider for more information about this option.
Moreover, not only the Data Protection Act, but also the Federal Act on Unfair Competition (UCA; SR 241) places legal restrictions on advertising calls. The UCA (Art. 3 para. 1 let. u) prohibits advertising calls to telephone numbers that are listed in the telephone directory with a star entry or to telephone numbers that are not listed in the telephone directory (advertising calls in the context of a business relationship are exempt from the ban). In the event of such calls, you can complain to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).
Last modification 24.04.2023