To change an email address. It’s not rocket science, or is it?

Recently I had to change my personal email address as I wanted to come away from some of the big providers to a more secure, privacy-friendly provider. I was also getting far too much spam as the address has been around for years and it’s very clear its been passed around from company to company. (Which is a separate issue in itself).

Would it be fair of me to state that people change their details all the time for one reason or another? You would think, therefore, that this basic human experience would be catered for by businesses by basic functionality wouldn’t you? And that you would be able to go online, log in, change your registered email address with them, confirm the change and get on with your day.

Well, like me you also thought wrong. Silly us with our common sense.

So come with me as I take you through modern rocket science, otherwise known as ‘how to change your registered email address with businesses’.
This is in no way an ‘official study’, but instead my experiences as I was going through it. I haven’t gone into a day by day log of each action but I can assure this has been going on over a period of 6 weeks and below is summary of my experience pulling teeth.

Let us start with what I wanted to achieve, which was 2 fold. 1 was to change the registered email address and the other was to change the marketing preferences, either to opt out completely or to simply swap the email address over. Seems fairly simple at face value right? Nothing particularly demanding or weird? Keep that in mind for later.

The Bank:

I started with the obvious things like the bank, the grocery store and my car. The Bank was able to change my details, but because I use the same bank for the business as well as personal, they decided that they would rather use the registered business email instead. So technically my old email address had been removed (tick) but they chose instead to use my business email and not the new personal one I had provided (doh). The logic for which still baffles me and I cannot now seem to change it back or separate them out.

To the Bank, it is one account and one email address to rule them all. Helpful and yet not. So some partial success there.

A Car Insurance Firm:

This one was a partial win. I was able to log on and change my email address with no issues (tick) however changing my marketing preferences proved more challenging (doh). For this, no matter how many times I opted that email address out of marketing, the same amount kept on coming. When I called the customer service team to see if a human being could sort it out, the rather unhelpful agent couldn’t seem to grasp that I just wanted one email address removed from the marketing lists, not myself completed removed.

I ended up completely removing myself from all marketing as it was just easier to just take them both off. Their loss, not mine (doh).

A telephone (mobile) provider:

It was very much the exact same story as the car insurance website. I could make changes online simply enough (tick), but as for changing the email used for marketing, that seemed to be too much to ask. So I simply removed myself from all of it as that seemed to be the only thing they understood (doh).

An online grocery store:

The grocery store was a doddle to change my email address (tick). Simply logged in, changed the details, click on the confirmation security email and bosh, all done. Even marketing now goes to the new account (tick), good work I am satisfied with your work (see, it can be simple!).

An online points card:

This particular card, to access via the app (the main way of accessing my account) gave me no choice over what email address I had registered with them (doh). Instead, I had to log on to the website or I could call up to make the change (doh). They seemed to understand marketing preferences a little more and I was easily (once logged in on the website) able to change what I needed to (tick).

An online hotel booking site:
Now to be fair to this site, I do have 2 accounts with them (linked as you can get to either when logged in). One I use for personal travel and one I use for business. This one did well in letting me change the address for the personal account (tick), but when it came to marketing preferences it seems to lose the plot a little bit.

I stopped receiving marketing to the new address and started receiving marketing to the new address plus the business address (which had previously been a no). Again, upon raising this with them they thought that consent for one, was consent for another. It most certainly is not (doh).

An online bidding site:
I did think about what I could call this so as not to be misleading, but there are loads of them now so I believe this one can be suitably ‘unknown’.

This one was just baffling. So I could change my email address (tick) but no matter what I do I cannot remove the email address from receiving marketing (doh). And yes I have referred this one to the ICO as no matter how many times I unsubscribed the same emails kept on coming.

An online discounts site:
Now this one I don’t ever remember creating an account for, but that isn’t saying much as I have the memory of a fish.

I was able to change my registered email address (tick) but I cannot remove it from marketing. As with the bidding site, I have tried and tried with no success (doh). So this one has also been referred to the ICO.

A gym:
It may shock you to know that I have a gym membership. I couldn’t possibly tell you what the gym looks like now as it has been a while since I’ve been in one but none the less I do keep the membership going.

For this particular gym, you have a very interactive and modern looking app. However, for all it’s shine basic functions like changing your details are not enabled (doh). Therefore you have to write, email or complain on social media and someone from the customer service team will do it for you. Modern, and yet not.

On the upside however they did handle the marketing preferences correctly (tick). So small wins? But why bother deploying a fancy app that doesn’t even do basic data management functionality for the customer?

A dating site:
Now last was a dating site. For those of you that have attended my DPIA or GDPR training, you’ll know that I have registered on a dating site. While it has brought some, interesting, experiences I do like to maintain it in the hopes that one day I won’t need it (and I certainly don’t pay for it).

To change my details was fairly simple with correct verification (tick). However, like the ones above, the marketing preferences, however, were not (doh). On the app, I cannot change them so I have to log in to the website. On the website, it appears as if I have changed them for the new email address but 5 weeks later I’m still getting things coming through to the old address. They, also, have been referred to the ICO (although I obviously said I was referring for a friend…).

What does this say about companies today? 

Well, I appreciate that this is not a representative sample as the companies just happen to be the ones I was signed up with. Some of the companies above had gotten it right and offered decent technology and functionality with easy and basic control over data. Others, on the other hand, seemed to have gone for all show and no substance. One even still relied on a human being to do (which for a national company is a little surprising).

Basic control over your data isn’t some beurocratic right far removed from every day, it’s a fundamental part of the customer experience and expectations. It isn’t just about customers having the power to opt out, its also about them swapping from one channel to another. Time and again I see marketing officers and user design agents saying email preferences are all about marketing,


Being able to change your details to get what you want in the way you want it surely is at the core of customer experience and interfaces? If you want to get the customer experience right, putting DP and Marketing law aside for a moment, why wouldn’t you want to invest time and effort into getting the data about them right and keeping it that way by offering the customer the method to easily do it?

There a phrase I believe, “look after your money and your money will look after you”.

Well the same could be said for you and your customer’s data.

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