Do marketing emails require consent, if so are they breaking the law now that GDPR is active?
Yes. See Article 21(2):
- Where personal data are processed for direct marketing purposes, the data subject shall have the right to object at any time to processing of personal data concerning him or her for such marketing, which includes profiling to the extent that it is related to such direct marketing.
This is not new, something similar was already put in the ePrivacy Directive (2002/58/EC):
The use of automated calling systems without human intervention (automatic calling machines), facsimile machines (fax) or electronic mail for the purposes of direct marketing may only be allowed in respect of subscribers who have given their prior consent.
Notwithstanding paragraph 1, where a natural or legal person obtains from its customers their electronic contact details for electronic mail, in the context of the sale of a product or a service, in accordance with Directive 95/46/EC, the same natural or legal person may use these electronic contact details for direct marketing of its own similar products or services provided that customers clearly and distinctly are given the opportunity to object, free of charge and in an easy manner, to such use of electronic contact details when they are collected and on the occasion of each message in case the customer has not initially refused such use.
In any case, it must be possible to stop this direct marketing, without any effect on other email or services. (See also recital 43, regarding freely given consent).
If you want to, you can complain at the supervisory authority, which I believe is the ICO in the UK, or you can go to a court directly.