Email marketing frustrates everyone - Wikimedia

Consumers feel like they are drowning in a flood of unwanted, irrelevant email marketing, and increasingly see no difference between legitimate marketing emails and spam, according to a survey.

They now want tougher legislation on how businesses send messages, the research by Kognitio has found.

According to the business intelligence and data warehousing company British firms spend almost $7.6 billion a year on email marketing efforts. However, the lines between legitimate marketing emails and spam are blurring with 52 percent of the 2,013 people surveyed claiming they see no difference between marketing emails and spam, and completely ignore it anyway.

Kognito said that as a result, $3.8 billion of email marketing money is wasted. Its survey jokingly revealed that some would prefer to go on a date with Anne Robinson than sift through the spam. She's actually a very nice lady, we've heard.

"Email marketing is a huge business for companies worldwide," said Roger Llewellyn, CEO and president of Kognitio. "However, it should never be allowed to frustrate and confuse consumers to the extent that this research shows. If marketing becomes increasingly conflated with spam, then consumers will become even more alienated and companies will have to deal with that dissatisfaction."

According to the research 59 percent of consumers now want tougher legislation on email marketing to help bring the situation under some kind of control. They could always just 'opt out'. 

Constantly changing terms and conditions often confuse consumers in emails too. Kognito called up GameStation's April Fools joke, where it changed the small print to say users were handing over their souls.

Kognito said that while GameStation was making a satirical point, clearer and simpler to T&Cs would be a great help to consumers, as would a clearer understanding of what is and isn't allowed in terms of email marketing and using information.

"It's not impossible, or even particularly difficult, to make Terms and Conditions easy to understand and to use email marketing responsibly," said Llewellyn.

"Indeed, the Information Commissioner's Office has recently introduced a code of practice on using personal information online that may help give consumers some of the guidance they need. However, the onus shouldn't be on consumers who, let us remember, are the victims here.

"Reputable companies should keep their email marketing focused, concise and transparent. If they don't do this, and if their customers increasingly lump all email marketing in the junk box with spam, then the companies have nobody to blame but themselves," he said.