In short: Yes! One of the key advantages of direct mail is the ability to contact existing customers with advertising messages even without an existing opt-in. This practice differs from electronic communication such as email or SMS, where prior consent (opt-in) is usually required. Below, we clarify some important questions on this topic. 



In Germany, the Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) allow companies to send print advertising by regular mail to existing customers, even if they have not explicitly opted in.  This allows existing customer relationships to be maintained and customers to be informed about new products or services. Nevertheless, there are some legal framework conditions and practical considerations that need to be taken into account.

Certain conditions must be met in order to be allowed to send advertising to customers.

1. the advertising must take place 
within the framework of an existing business relationship.

2. the customer must not have explicitly objected to the mailing.

While an opt-in is required for electronic advertising, such as a manual newsletter registration, the sending of print advertising must be expressly objected to.  

What constitutes an “existing business relationship”?

In Germany, the term “existing business relationship” in the context of print advertising and direct marketing is not always clearly defined and depends on various factors. In principle, however, it can be said that an existing business relationship exists if there has already been an interaction between the company and the recipient. Here are some examples and criteria that can constitute an existing business relationship:

  • Purchase of a product or service: The recipient has purchased a product or service from the company in the past.

  • Registration for a service: The recipient has registered for a specific service from the company, e.g. a customer account, a subscription, or a membership.

  • Enquiry or offer: The recipient has made an enquiry or received an offer from the company in the past and responded to it.

  • Participation in a competition or promotion: The recipient has taken part in a competition or promotion organised by the company.

  • Interaction through contact: Any form of active contact, whether by filling out a contact form or by communicating directly with the company, can be considered an existing business relationship.

It is important to note that the sending of print advertising as part of an existing business relationship must nevertheless comply with the principles of data protection and data minimisation. The advertising should be proportionate to the previous business relationship, and the recipient must have the opportunity to object to further mailings.

Sending advertising with existing opt-out for newsletters or email advertising 

A frequently asked question is whether a company can send direct mail if a customer has unsubscribed from newsletters or other similar forms of electronic advertising. Here too, the answer may come as a surprise: yes, it is indeed possible. The opt-out for electronic communication such as emails or text messages does not automatically apply to postal advertising. However, we advise you to make a clear distinction between this in the data protection guidelines and in communication with customers in order to avoid misunderstandings.

Unsubscribing from direct mail

Customers have the right to object to the use of their data for direct marketing purposes at any time. This can be done informally, for example by notifying the company by letter, e-mail or telephone. The cancellation can be offered by hotline, cancellation form, e-mail or letter, as long as the path is clear and obvious. 

It is important that this information be easily accessible and clearly communicated so that customers do not have difficulty unsubscribing. This kind of frustration can lead to a great loss of goodwill.

Dealing with advertising material that has already been sent 

If a customer unsubscribes from direct mail, it can happen that mailings that have already been prepared are still delivered. These situations often arise due to the time delay between the creation, printing, and dispatch of the advertising materials, which can easily be over a week. 

In this case, the company is obliged to process all objections as quickly as possible and thus prevent the customer from writing to them immediately. However, if prepared mailings are already being created, and it is therefore not possible to prevent them from being sent, this is legitimate. When unsubscribing, the customer should be clearly informed that there may be transitional periods until the objection can be finally implemented. 

In such a case, it is important that the company processes the objection as quickly as possible and ensures that the customer is no longer included in future campaigns. The delivery of mailings that have already been sent, usually can no longer be prevented, as they are already in the distribution process. Customers should be informed that there may be a short transitional period until the objection has been fully implemented.


Direct mail advertising to existing customers is a permissible and effective marketing strategy in Germany. Companies should ensure that they comply with the legal framework and offer customers clear and simple ways to unsubscribe from direct mail. Through transparent communication and efficient internal processes, companies can strengthen the trust of their customers and achieve their marketing goals at the same time.

(Disclaimer: This text does not replace legal advice).