Email is one of the most effective marketing channels available today.
It’s incredibly quick and easy to get started, and today’s email marketing tools make it simple for marketers of all levels to create a campaign, upload a list and send it out.
However, before you jump straight in and start sending campaigns, it’s worth getting a basic understanding of the laws around email marketing to ensure your campaigns aren’t breaking any.
In this guide, we’ll teach you the laws around email marketing and outline the things you need to do to ensure your email marketing initiatives remain on the right side of the law.
There are number of different laws that guide the use of email marketing for commercial purposes. In the USA it’s the CAN-SPAM act, in Canada it’s the CASL laws, while in the UK it’s a set of laws known as the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations of 2003.
All of these laws dictate a number of conditions that email marketers need to follow to avoid significant fines.
While it all may sound a little scary, if you’re a legitimate business using a proper email marketing tool to send legitimate email campaigns, you are likely already complying with the rules.
That’s because the laws are largely targeted at spammers and are designed to prevent them from acquiring people’s email addresses without their permission and spamming them with unsolicited emails.
That being said, there are a few little nuances in the laws that even marketers with the best intentions can accidentally violate, so it’s worth reading on to learn how you can be compliant.
Rather than go into the details of each country’s laws, we reviewed them all and compiled a simple list of things marketers like you can do to ensure your campaigns are compliant with all the laws across the globe.
Most country’s email marketing laws stipulate that people need to give you permission to email them in order for you to send them campaigns.
The definition of permission is a little loose and varies between each country’s laws, but generally there are two types of permission; implied permission and express permission.
Implied permission covers anybody who you have an existing business relationship with. This could be because they are a current customer, donate to your charity, or are an active member of your website, club or community.
If you don’t have implied permission to email a person, then you’ll need express permission. Express permission is granted when somebody specifically gives you permission to send them email campaigns, potentially by entering their email address in a subscribe form on your website, or entering their details into your in-store newsletter subscribe form.
Campaign Monitor customer Freshbooks approach is a great example of how to get express permission to email people.
When people visit their blog, Freshbooks presents them with a popup encouraging them to subscribe to their email list in order to get instant access to an eBook on business growth.
By entering their email address in the box, people are giving Freshbooks express permission to email them and Freshbooks is able to build a large email list that complies with global anti-spam laws.
For those that may not be familiar with the term ‘header information’, it refers to the extra information sent along with your email campaign, such as the From name, subject line and reply-to address.
Email marketing laws stipulate that you must not include incorrect or misleading information in these fields to try to trick people into opening your email campaigns.
Campaign Monitor customer Converse do a good job of staying within the laws. They include their company name in the From field to make it clear who the email is from, and use a subject line that reflects the content of the email to ensure there’s no confusion.
The key here is just not to purposely deceive your recipients. If you are sending a campaign on behalf of ABC widgets, it’s a breach of the laws to put ‘Brad Pitt’ in the From name field to get people to open the campaign. However, arousing curiosity or getting creative with your subject line is perfectly ok, so long as you don’t purposely try to deceive recipients.
CAN-SPAM laws stipulate that you must clearly and conspicuously disclose that your message is an advertisement.
The law gives a lot of leeway in how you do this, and you certainly don’t need to specifically state ‘This email is an advertisement’ every time you send a campaign. It’s more about not purposely deceiving your recipients into thinking this is a personal email.
Campaign Monitor customer Sephora does an excellent job of this in their email campaigns.
They don’t specifically state this campaign is an advertisement, but by using their company name as the From name and having ‘Get 20% Off All Eye Shadow’ as the subject line they make it clear to recipients that this is a promotional message and not a personal email from a friend.
Most country’s email marketing laws stipulate that you must clearly include a valid postal address for your business in your email campaigns. This can be your current street address, a postbox address or an address with a registered commercial mail-receiving company.
Campaign Monitor customer BuzzFeed complies with this law in all of their campaigns by including the address of their New York headquarters at the bottom of every campaign.
If you’re a Campaign Monitor customer, including your physical address in your email campaigns is easy. Every template in our library includes a space in the email footer to add the information, and you simply click and edit the information right there in the email before sending.
Most country’s email marketing laws stipulate that your email campaigns must include a clear and conspicuous mechanism for opting-out of receiving email from you in the future, and that this mechanism must be easy for an ordinary person to recognize and understand.
Campaign Monitor customer Freshbooks complies with this law in all of their campaigns, including a clear method for unsubscribing in the footer of their campaigns.
If you’re a Campaign Monitor customer, every template in our library includes an unsubscribe link in the footer that complies with this law and enables you to create and send your campaigns without worrying whether your emails comply with this particular part of the CAN-SPAM laws.
The CAN-SPAM laws stipulate that you must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days, and that you cannot charge a fee to opt them out, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website to opt out.
Campaign Monitor customer Rip Curl goes above and beyond this law in all of their campaigns. They include an unsubscribe link in the footer of every campaign that instantly removes a subscriber from the list, before directing them to a confirmation page that lets the recipient know they have been unsubscribed.
If you’re a Campaign Monitor customer, this is all taken care of for you. When a recipient clicks an unsubscribe link in your campaigns they are instantly redirected to a page where they can update their preferences (I.e. unsubscribe from particular lists) or unsubscribe from all emails completely.
Once they’ve made their selection, their opt-out request is instantly honored and the recipient is removed from all your existing email lists.
Furthermore, any recipient who opts-out is automatically added to a suppression list in your account which helps prevent you from accidentally uploading their email address as part of a new list and sending them campaigns even after they had opted-out.
By following the 6 tips mentioned above, majority of marketers can ensure their emails are compliant with global anti-spam laws.
That said, not every situation is the same and there are a number of technicalities in these laws that are worth mentioning in case they apply to your specific situation. These include:
According to the law, even if you are outsourcing your email marketing efforts to a 3rd party (I.e. a web design or marketing agency, or a freelance contractor) you are still responsible for ensuring the campaigns being sent on behalf of your business are compliant.
So if you do outsource the creation and sending of your campaigns, make sure that when you review them before sending you check the above tips have been followed.
Similarly, if you are an agency creating campaigns on behalf of your clients, make sure you’re following the tips mentioned above to prevent getting your clients in trouble and losing their business.
Majority of the anti-spam laws around the world are designed to guide the sending of commercial email marketing messages, and they apply to any sort of newsletters, marketing announcements or promotional campaigns your business might be sending.
An area that is largely exempt from these laws however, is transactional emails. So if you’re sending order confirmations, shipping confirmations, password reset emails, etc. which are designed to provide information about an existing purchase or membership then these specific emails are exempt from the anti-spam rules mentioned above.
All that being said, a lot of the tips presented in this guide (like not using deceptive From names and subject lines) are also just general best practices that help prevent your recipients from perceiving your emails as suspicious, so it’s best to incorporate them into your transactional emails anyway.
Email is one of the most effective marketing channels available today, but before you jump in and start sending campaigns for your business it’s important to understand the laws around email marketing and how to comply with them.
Fortunately for you, using email marketing software like Campaign Monitor makes complying with these rules easy. You get the tools you need to build your email list in the right way, and the software automatically handles the unsubscribe process and backend list management to ensure you meet the requirements around unsubscribing from campaigns.
So by combining a professional email marketing tool with some basic common sense around the use of the subject line and From name, legitimate marketers like you can easily send campaigns that meet the legal requirements and drive results for your business.
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