Can I ask a client for an online review without GDPR issues?
Date: 27 August 2019
Please note: Google My Business changed its name to Google Business Profile in late 2021.
You probably know how important it is to ask clients for reviews, but can you do this without GDPR issues?
This is something we are asked and, of course, have to be aware of when assisting clients. Particularly on our SEO projects (search engine optimisation), where we always mention that it is helpful to have reviews to support improving your Google rankings.
Many business owners and marketers are concerned about emailing clients when they may not have the consent required (for consumers/sole traders/partnerships), or legitimate interest legal basis (for contacting limited companies).
It would be understandable to think that asking clients for a review on TripAdvisor, Facebook, a trusted trader or other platforms would be considered ‘marketing’. Since it all helps promote your business. And hence you’d need GDPR compliance and to follow the PECR rules (Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations).
We have been in touch with the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office – the regulator) and double-checked the rules for asking for reviews.
The verdict on 27 August 2019 (as agreed by 2 senior ICO advisors) was:
“Emails requesting reviews are classed as service messages and not marketing.”
You can read more about what the ICO class as direct marketing emails.
- ‘Genuine market research’ does not count as direct marketing if it does not include any promotional materials or collect details details to use in future marketing campaigns.
- Similarly, ‘routine customer service messages’ also do not count as direct marketing (ie service interruptions, delivery, product safety, tariffs, changes to T’s and C’s) if there are no promotional messages (logo and strapline are ok to use!). So review requests come under this label.
It is therefore permissible to email customers – consumer and business clients – to ask for a review on TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook or any other reviews platform. But there are some criteria you need to be aware of:
- Don’t ask everyone at once – if you suddenly get a lot of reviews in a short period it will raise a red flag and look suspicious to Google
- You are not permitted to offer incentives to clients to leave reviews – Google rules!
- This request for a review is allowed ONLY if your email says words similar to ‘thank you for your purchase, we hope you enjoyed x. We’d be very grateful if you would leave a review of your product/experience on x platform via this link…’ This would be classed as a service message and not marketing.
- You must NOT mention/promote any of your products and services – stick to just asking about a review.
If you mention any other products/services in consumer emails, it will be classed as marketing – so you can only send the email if you have permission to send marketing emails. In other words, PECR and GDPR compliance is required!
But overall you can relax, follow these instructions and not be in trouble. (Although we have to caveat this by saying that things do change!).
You can, of course, still encourage clients to leave reviews via signage at your premises, or during the ecommerce process, for example.
Don’t forget that Google says you should NOT offer incentives for clients to leave reviews.
Would you like to know more about the best way to ask customers to leave you a Google review? Read our blog entitled and How to set up a quick link for requesting Google Reviews and How can customers leave a Google review for my business?